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t . «^. 

61:-: - 

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■« ^ 









But the Dwarf answered : 
No; something human is dearer to 
me than the wealth of all the world." 

— ^Eiim't Talbb 















This could have occurred nowhere but in England, 
where men and sea interpenetrate, so to speak — ^the sea 
entering into the Hfe of most men, and the men know- 
ing something or everything about the sea, in the way 
of amusement, of travel, or of bread-winning. 

We were sitting round a mahogany table that reflected 
the bottle, the claret-glasses, and our faces as we leaned 
on our elbows. There was a director of companies, an 
accountant, a lawyer, Marlow, and myself. The direc- 
tor had been a Conway boy, the accountant had served 
four years at sea, the lawyer — ^a fine crusted Tory, High 
Churchman, the best ^old fellows, the soul of honor — 
had been chief officer m the P. & O. service in the good 
old days when mail-boats were square-rigged at least on 
two masts, and used to come down the China Sea before 
a fair monsoon with stun'-sails set alow and ialoft. We 
all began life in the merchant service. Between the five 
of us there was the strong bond of the sea, and also the 
fellowship of the craft, which no amount of enthusiasm 
for yachting, cruising, and so on can give, since one is 
only the amusement of Hfe and the other is life itself. 

Marlow (at least I think that is how he spelt his name) 
told the story, or rather the chronicle, of a voyage : 

" Yes, I have seen a little of the Eastern seas ; but what 

I remember best is my first voyage there. You fellows 



know there are those voyages that seem ordered for th^ 
illustration of life, that might stand for a symbol of 
existence. You fight, work, sweat, nearly kill yourself, 
sometimes do kill yourself, trying to accomplish some- 
thing — and you can't. Not Irom any fault of yours. 
You simply can do nothing, neither great nor little — » 
not a thing in the world — ^not even marry an old maid, or 
get a wretched 600-ton cargo of coal to its port of desti-* 

^^ It was altogether a memorable affair. It was my 
first voyage to the East, and my first voyage as second 
mate; it was also my skipper's first command. You'll 
admit it was time. He was sixty if a day ; a little man, 
with a broad, not very straight back, with bowed shoul- 
ders and one leg more bandy than the other,^he had that 
queer twisted-about appearance you see so q£ten in men 
who work in the fields. He had a nut-cracker'face — chin 
and nose trying to come togetiier over a sunken mouth — 
and it was framed in iron-gray fluffy hair, that looked 
like a chin strap of ^tton-wool sprinkled with coal-dust. 
And he had blue eyes in that old face of his, which were 
amazingly like a boy's, with that candid expression some 
quite common men preserve to the en,d of their days by 
a rare imijf mal gift of simplicity of heart and rectitude 
of soul. What induced him to accept me was a wonder. 
I had come out of a crack Australian clipper, where I 
liad been third officer, and he seemed to have a prejudice 
against crack clippers as aristocratic and high-toned. 
He said to me, ' You know, in this ship you will have to 
work.^ I said I had to work in every ship I had ever 


been in. ^ Ah, but this is different, and you gentlemen 
out of them big ships ; . . . but there 1 1 dare say you 
will do. Join to-morrow.' 

"I joined to-morrow. It was twenty-two years ago; 
And I was just twenty. How time passes! It was one 
of the happiest days of my life. Fancy ! Second mate 
for the first time — ^a really responsible officer ! I wouldn't 
have thrown up my new billet for a fortune. The mate 
looked me over carefully. He was also an old chap, but 
of another stamp. He had a Roman nose, a snow-white,; 
long beard, and his name was Mahon, but he insisted that 
it should be pronounced Mann. He was well connected ; 
jet there was something wrong with his luck, and he. 
had never got on. 

''As to the captain, he had been for years in coasters, 
then in the ^Mediterranean, and last in the West Indian 
trade. He liad never been round the Capes. He could 
just write a kind of sketchy hand, and didn't care for 
writing at all. Both were thorough good seamen of 
course, and between those two old chaps I felt like a 
•mall boy between two grandfathers. 

'' Th^ ship also was old. Her name was the Judea. 
Queer name, isn't it? She belonged to a man Wilmer, 
Wilcox — some name like that ; but he has been bankrupt 
*nd dead these twenty years or more, and his name dWt 
matter. She had been laid up in Shadwell basin for ever 
«o long. You can imagine her state. She was all rust, 
dust, grime — soot aloft, dirt on deck. To me it was 
like coming out of a palace into a ruined cottage. She 
^u about 400 tons, had a primitive windlass, wooden 




latches 1<^ Jt^ JoOrt^ not a bit of brass about her, an3 a 
big squ9.rc stem. There was on it, below her name in 
big letters, a lot of scroll work, with the gilt off, and some 
sort of a coat of arms, with the motto * Do or Die ' under- 
neath. I remember it took my fancy immensely. There 
was a touch of romance in it, something that made me 
love the old thing — something that appealed to my 
youth ! 

" We left London in ballast — ^sand ballast — ^to load a 
cargo of coal in a northern port for Bankok. Bankok ! 
I thrilled. I had been six years at sea, but had only seen 
Melbourne and Sydney, very good places, charming 
places in their way — ^but Bankok ! 

" We worked out of the Thames under canvas, with a 
Nbrth Sea pilot on board. His name was Jermyn, and 
he dodged all day long about the galley drying his hand' 
kerchief before the stove. Apparently he never slept 
/He was a dismal man, with a perpetual tear sparkling 
at the end of his nose,| who either had been in trouble, oi 
was in trouble, or expected to be in trouble — couldn't b< 
happy unless something went wrong. He mistrustcc 
my youth, my common-sense, and my seamanship, an( 
made a point of showing it in a hundred little ways, 
dare say he was right. It seems to me I knew very littl 
then, and I know not much more now; but I cherish ; 
hate for that Jermyn to this day. 

" We were a week working up as far as Yarmout 
Roads, and then we got into a gale — ^the famous Octobe 
gale of twenty-two years ago. It was wind, lightning 
sleet, snow, and a terrific sea. We were flying light, an 


jou may imagine how bad it was when I tell you we had 
smashed bulwarks and a flooded deck. On the second 
night she shifted her ballast into the lee bow, and by 
that time we had been blown off somewhere on the Dogger 
Bank. There was nothing for it but go below with 
shovels and try to right her, and there we were in that 
vast hdd, gloomy like a cavern, the tallow dips stuck 
and flickering on the beams, the gale howling above, the 
ship tossing about like mad on her side; there we all 
were, Jermyn, the captain, everyone, hardly able to keep 
our feet, engaged on that gravedigger's work, and try- 
ing to toss shovelfuls of wet sand up to windward. At 
every tumble of the ship you could see vaguely in the 
dim light men falling down with a great flourish of shov- 
els. One of the ship's boys (we had two), impressed by 
the weirdness of the scene, wept as if his heart would 
break. We could hear him blubbering somewhere in the 

" On the third day the gale died out, and by-and-by a 
north-country tug picked us up. We took sixteen days 
in aU to get from London to the Tyne ! When we got 
into dock we had lost our turn for loading, and they 
hauled us off to a tier where we remained for a month. 
Mrs. Beard (the captain's name was Beard) came from 
Colchester to see the old man. She lived on board. The 
crew of runners had left, and there remained only the 
(^cers, one boy, and the steward, a mulatto who an- 
swered to the name of Abraham. Mrs. Beard was an old 
"wonian, with a face all wrinkled and ruddy like a winter 
Apple, and the figure of a young girl. She caught sight 



of me once, sewing on a button, and insisted on having 
my shirts to repair. This was something different from 
the captains' wives I had known on board crack clippers. 
When I brought her the shirts, she said : * And the 
socks? They want mending, I am sure, and John's — 
Captain Beard's — ^things are all in order now. I would 
be glad of something to do.' Bless the old woman. She 
overliauled my outfit for me, and meantime I read for the 
first time * Sartor Resartus ' and Burnaby's * Ride to 
Khiva.' I didn't understand much of the first then; 
but I remember I preferred the soldier to the philosopher 
at the time ; a preference which life has only confirmed. 
One was a man, and the other was either more — or less. 
However, they are both dead, and Mrs. Beard is dead, 
( and youth, strength, genius, thoughts, achievements 
simple hearts — ^all die ; . . . No matter. 

" They loaded us at last. We shipped a crew. Eightf 
able seamen and two boys. We hauled off one evening 
to the buoys at the dock-gates, ready to go out, and with 
a fair prospect of beginning the voyage next day. Mrs. 
Beard was to start for home by a late train. When the 
ship was fast we went to tea. We sat rather silent 
through the meal — Mahon, the old couple, and I. I 
finished first, and slipped away for a smoke, my cabin 
being in a deck-house just against the poop. It was high 
water, blowing fresh with a drizzle; the double dock- 
gates were opened, and the steam colliers were, going in 
and out in the darkness with their lights burning 
bright, a great plashing of propellers, rattling of 
winches, and a lot of hailing on the pier-heads. I watched 



the procession of head-lights gliding high and of green 
lights gliding low in the night, when suddenly a red 
gleam flashed at me, vanished, came into view again, and 
remained. The fore-end of a steamer loomed up close. 
I shouted down the cabin, ^ Come up, quick ! ' and then 
heard a startled voice saying afar in the dark, ' Stop her, 
sir.' A bell jingled. Another voice cried wamingly, 
* We are going right into that bark, sir.' The answer to 
this was a gruff ^ All right,' and the next thing was a 
heavy crash as the steamer struck a glancing blow with 
the bluff of her bow about our fore-rigging. There was 
a moment of confusion, yelling, and running about. 
Steam roared. Then somebody was heard saying, ^ All 
dear, sir.' . . * *Are you all right?' asked the gruff 
voice. I had jumped forward to see the damage, and 
hailed back, ^ I think so.' * Easy astern,' said the gruff 
voice. A bell jingled. *What steamer is that?' 
screamed Mahon. By that time she was no more to us 
than a bulky shadow maneuvering a little way off. They 
shouted at us some name — a woman's name, Miranda or 
Melissa~~or some Wch thing. * This means another 
month in this beastly hole,' said Mahon to me, as we 
peered with lamps about the splintered bulwarks^ and 
broken braces. ^ But where's the captain? ' 
" We had not heard or seen anything of him all that 
time. We went aft to look. A doleful voice arose hail- 
ing somewhere in the middle of the dock, * Judea ahoy ! ' 
. . • How the devil did he get there? . . . * Hallo!' 
we shouted. * I am adrift in our boat without oars,' he 
cried. A belated waterman offered his services, and 




Mahon struck a bargain with him for haff-a-crown ti 
tow bur skipper alongside ; but it was Mrs. Beard thai 
came up the ladder first. They had been floating aboul 
the dock in that mizzlj cold rain for nearly an hour. ] 
was never so surprised in my life. 

" It appears that when he heard my shout * Come up, 
he understood at once what was the matter, caught u] 
his wife, ran on deck, and across, and down into our boat 
which was fast to the ladder. Not bad for a sixty-year 
old. Just imagine that old fellow saving heroically i] 
his arms that old woman — ^the woman of his life. H 
set her down on a thwart, and was ready to climb bad 
on board when the painter came adrift somehow, ant 
away they went together. Of course in the confusio; 
we did not hear him shouting. He looked abashed. Sh 
said cheerfully, * I suppose it does not matter my losinj 
the train now? ' * No, Jenny — ^you go below and gc 
warm,' he growled. Then to us : * A sailor has no busi 
ness with a wife — ^I say. There I was, out of the slii| 
Well, no harm done this time. Let's go and look at whu 
that fool of a steamer smashed.' 

" It wasn't much, but it delayed us three weeks. A 
the end of that time, the captain being engaged with h 
agents, I carried Mrs. Beard's bag to the railway-sti 
tion and put her all comfy into a third-class carriag 
She lowered the window to say, * You are a good youn 
man. If you see John— Captain Beard — ^without h 
muffler at night, just remind him from me to keep h 
throat well wrapped up.' * Certainly, Mrs. Beard,' 
said. ^ You are a good young man ; I noticed how a 



tentive you are to John — ^to Captain ^ The train 

pulled out suddenly; I took my cap off to the old 
woman : I never saw her again. . . . Pass the bottle. 

" We went to sea next day. When we made that start 
for Bankok we had been already three months out of 
London. We had expected to be a fortnight or so— at 
the outside. 

" It was January, and the weather was beautiful — the 
beautiful sunny winter weather that has more charm 
than in the summer-time^because it is unexpected, and 
crisp, and you know it won't, it can't, last long. \ It's 
like a windfall, like a godsend, like an unexpected piece 
of luck. 

^ It lasted all down the North Sea, all down Channel ; 
and it lasted till we were three hundred miles or so to the 
westward of the Lizards: then the wind went round to 
the sou'west and began to pipe up. In two days it blew 
a gale; The Jtidea, hove to, wallowed on the Atlantic 
like an old candlebox. It blew day after day: it blew 
with spite, without interval, without mercy, without rest. 
The world was nothing but an immensity of great foam- 
ing waves rushing at us, under a sky low enough to 
touch with the hand and dirty like a smoked ceiling. In 
the stormy space surroimding us there was as much flying 
spray as air. Day after day and night after night there 
was nothing round the ship but the howl of the wind, 
the tumult of the sea, the noise of water pouring over 
her deck. There was no rest for her and no rest for us. 
She tossed, she pitched, she stood on her head, she sat on 
her tail, she rolled, she groaned, and we had to hold on 



while on deck and cling to our blinks when bebw, in \ 
constant effort of body and worry of mind. 

*^ One night Mahon spoke through the small windol 
of my berth. It opened right into my very bed, and 
was lying there sleepless, in my boots, feeling as thoug 
I had not slept for years, and could not if I tried. H 
said excitedly — 

" • You got the sounding-rod in here, Marlow? I can^ 
get the pumps to suck. By Grod ! it's no child's play.' 

*' I gave him the sounding-rod and lay down agaii 
trying to think of various things — ^but I thought onl; 
of the pumps. When I came on deck they were still a 
— it, and my watch relieved at the piunps. By the light o 
the lantern brought on deck to examine the sounding 
/ rod I caught a glimpse of their weary, serious facei 
i We pumped all the four hours. We pumped all nigh 
all day, all the week, — ^watch and watch. She was worl 
ing herself loose, and leaked badly — not enough t 
drown us at once, but enough to kill us with the work b 
the pumps. And while we pumped the ship was goin 
from us pi^cemei^l: the bulwarks went, the stanchioi 
wercj-*<JiTi out, the ventilators smashed, the cabin-doc 
burst in. There was not a dry spot in the ship. She vri 
being gutted bit by bit. The long-boat changed, as i 
by magic, into matchwood where she stood in her gripe 
I had lashed her myself, and was rather proud of ni 
handiwork, which had withstood so long the malice c 
the sea. And we pumped. And there was no break i 
the weather. The sea was white like a sheet of f oat 
like a caldron of boiling milk ; there was not a break j 

[ 12 ] 



tiie clouds, no — mit the size of a inan's hand — ^no, not 

for so much as ten seconds. There was for us no sky, 

there were for us no stars, no sun, no universe— nothing 

but angry clouds and an infuriated sea. We pumped 

watch and watch, for dear life; and it seemed to last for 

months, for years, for all eternity, as though we had been 

dead and gone to a hell for sailors. We forgot the day 

of the Week, the name of the month, what year it was, 

and whether we had ever been ashore. The sails blew 

away, she lay broadside on under a weather-cloth, the 

ocean poured over her, and we did not care. We turned 

those handles, and had the eyes of idiots. As soon as we 

had crawled on deck I used to take a round turn with a 

rope about the men, the pumps, and the maimnast, and 

we turned, we turned incessantly, with the water to our 

waists, to our necks, over our heads. It was all one. 

We had forgotten how it felt to be dry. 

"And there was somewhere in me the thought: By 

Jove ! this is the deuce of an adventure — something you 

read about ; and it is my first voyage as second mate — 

and I am only twenty — and here I am lasting it out as 

well as any of these men, and keeping my chaps up to / 

the mark. I was pleased. I would not have given up .' 

the experience for worlds. I had moments of exultation«"N» 

Whenever the old dismantled craft pitched heavily with 

her counter high in the air, she seemed to me to throw 

up, like an appeal, like a defiance, like a cry to the clouds 

without mercy, the words written on her stem : * Judea, 

]Pondon. Do or Die.' 

(^'^O youth! Thejtrength of it* .thfiLiaith. of it, the 

\ —"^ [18] 


imagination of it i\ To me she was not an did rattle-tm 
carting about the Vorld a lot of coal for a freight — 
me she was the endeavor, the test, the trial of life, 
think of her with pleasure, with affection, with regret- 
as you would think of someone dead you have loved, 
shall never forget her. . . . Pass the bottle. 

" One night when tied to the mast, as I explained, i 
were pumping on, deafened with the wind, and witho 
^spirit enough in us to wish ourselves dead, a heavy s 
crashed aboard and swept clean over us. As soon as 
got my breath I shouted, as in duty bound, * Keep c 
boys ! ' when suddenly I felt something hard floating < 
deck strike the calf of my leg. I made a grab at it ai 
missed. It was so dark we could not see each othe] 
faces within a foot — ^you understand. 

" After that thump the ship kept quiet for a whi 
and the thing, whatever it was, struck my leg agai 
This time I caught it — ^and it was a sauce-pan. At firi 
being stupid with fatigue and thinking of nothing b 
the pumps, I did not understand what I had in my han 
Suddenly it dawned upon me, and I shouted, * Boys, t 
house on deck is gone. Leave this, and let's look for t 

" There was a deck-house forward, which contain 
the galley, the cook's berth, and the quarters of t 
crew. As we had expected for days to see it swept awa 
the hands had been ordered to sleep in the cabin — ^t 
only safe place in the ship. The steward, Abraha: 
however, persisted in clinging to his berth, stupidly, li 
A mule — from sheer fright I believe, like an animal th 



imt leave a stable falling in an earthquake. So we 
wait to look for him. It was chancing death, since once 
out of our lashings we were as exposed as if on a raft. 
But we went. The house was shattered as if a shell had 
exploded inside. Most of it had gone overboard — stove, 
men's quarters, and their property, all was gone; but 
two posts, holding a portion of the bulkhead to which 
Abraham's bunk was attached, remained as if by a mir- 
acle. We groped in the ruins and came upon this, and 
there he was, sitting in his bunk, surroimded by foam and 
wreckage, jabbering cheerfully to himself. He was out 
of his mind ; completely and for ever mad, with this 
sudden shock coming upon the fag-end of his endurance. 
We snatched him up, lugged him aft, and pitched him 
head-first down the cabin companion. You understand 
there was no time to carry him down with infinite pre- 
cautions and wait to see how he got on. Those below 
would pick him up at the bottom of the stairs all right. 
We were in a hurry to go back to the pumps. That busi- 
ness could not wait. A bad leak is an inhuman thing. 
** One would think that the sole purpose of that fiend- 
ii»h gale had been to make a lunatic of that poor devil of 
a mulatto. It eased before morning, and next day the 
ikj cleared, and as the sea went down the leak took up. 
When it came to bending a fresh set of sails the crew 
demanded to put back — and really there was nothing else 
to do. Boats gone, decks swept clean, cabin gutted, men 
without a stitch but what they stood in, stores spoiled, 
•hip strained. We put her head for home, and — ^would 
you believe it? The wind came east right in our teeth. 




It blew fresh, it blew continuously. We had to beat up 
etery inch of the way, but she did not leak so badl^, 
the water keeping comparatively smooth.' Two hours' 
pumping in every four is no joke— 4)ut it kept her afloat 
as far as Falmouth. 

** The good people there live on casualties of the sea, 
and no doubt were glad to see us. A hungry crowd of 
shipwrights sharpened their chisels at the sight of that 
ci^rcass of a ship. And, by Jove ! they had pretty pick- 
ings off us before they were done. I fancy the owner 
was already in a tight place. There were delays. Then 
it was decided to take part of the cargo out and calk her 
topsides. This was done, the repairs finished, cargo re^ 
shipped ; a new crew came on board, and we went out—* 
for Bankok. At the end of a week we were back again. 
The crew said they weren't going to Bankok — ^a hundred 
and fifty days' passage — ^in a something hooker that 
wanted pumping eight hours out of the twenty-four; 
and the nautical papers inserted again the little para^* 
graph : * Judea* Bark. Tyne to Bankok ; coals ; put 
back to Falmouth leaky and with crew refusing duty.* 

** There were more delays — ^more tinkering. The 
owner came down for a day, and said she was as right as 
a little fiddle. Poor old Captain Beard looked like the 
ghost of a Geordie skipper — ^through the worry and 
humiliation of it. Remember he was sixty, and it was his 
first command. Mahon said it was a foolish business, 
and would end badly. I loved the ship more than ever, 
and wanted awfully to get to Btikok. To Bankok! 
Magic name, blessed name. Mesopotamia wasn't a patch 

[ 16 3 


on it. Remember I was twenty, and it was my first seoond 
flute's billet, and the East was waiting for me. 

** We went out and anchored in the outer roads with a 
fresh crew— the third. She leaked worse than ever. 
It was as if those conf oimded shipwrights had actually 
made a hole in her. This time we did not even 
go outside. The crew simply refused to man the 

** They towed us back to the inner harbor, and we be- 
came a fixture, a feature, an institution of the place. 
People pointed us out to visitors as * That 'ere bark 
that's going to Bankok — ^has been here six months — ^put 
back three times.' On holidays the small boys pulling 
about in boats would hail, * Jtidea, ahoy ! ' and if a head 
showed above the rail shouted, * Where you bound to? — 
Bankok? ' and jeered. We were only three on board. 
The poor old skipper mooned in the cabin. Mahon un- 
dertook the cooking, and unexpectedly developed all a 
Frenchman's genius for preparing nice little messes. I 
looked languidly after the rigging. We became citizens 
of Falmouth. Every shopkeeper knew us. At the bar- 
ber's or tobacconist's they asked familiarly, * Do you 
think you will ever get to Bankok?' Meantime the 
owner, the underwriters, and the charterers squabbled 
amongst themselves in London, and our pay went on. 
• . . Pass the bottle. 

^' It was horrid. Morally it was worse than pumping 
for life. It seemed as though we had been forgotten by 
the world, belonged to nobody, would get nowhere; it 
seemed that, as if bewitched, we would have to live for 


-•^v / 






ever and ever in that inner harbor, a derision and a by- 
word to generations of long-shore loafers and dishonest 
boatmen. I obtained three months' pay and a five days' 
leave, and made a rush for London. It took me a day 
to get there and pretty well another to come back — ^but 
three months' pay went all the same. I don't know what 
I did with it. I went to a music-hall, I believe, lunched, 
dined, and supped in a swell place in Regent Street, and 
was back to time, with nothing but a complete set of 
Byron's works and a new railway rug to show for three 
months' work. The boatman who pulled me off to the 
ship said : * Hallo ! I thought you had left the old thing. 
She will never get to Bankok.' * That's all you know 
about it,' I said scornfully — ^but I didn't like that proph- 
ecy at all. 

** Suddenly a man, some kind of agent to somebody^ 
appeared with full powers. He had grog blossoms all 
over his face, an indomitable energy, and was a jolly 
soul. We leaped into life again. A hulk came along- 
side, took our cargo, and then we went into dry dock to 
get our copper stripped. No wonder she leaked. The 
poor thing, strained beyond endurance by the gale, had, 
as if in disgust, spat out all the oakum of her lower 
seams. She was recalked, new coppered, and made as 
tight as a bottle. We went back to the hulk and re- 
shipped our cargo. 

'^ Then on a fine moonlight night, all the rats left the 

" We had been infested with them. They had destroyed 
our sails, consumed more stores than the crew, affably 






shared our beds and our dangers, and now, when ihe 
ship was made seaworthy, concluded to clear out. I 
called Mahon to enjoy the spectacle. Rat after rat ap- 
peared on our rail, took a last look over his shoulder, 
and leaped with a hollow thud into the empty hulk. 
We tried to count them, but soon lost the tale. Mahon 
said : * Well, well ! don't talk to me about the intelligence 
of rats. They ought to have left before, when we had 
that narrow squeak from foundering. There you have 
the proof how silly is the superstition about them. They 
leave a good ship for an old rotten hulk, where there is 
nothing to eat, too, the fools ! . . . I don't believe they 
know what is safe or what is good for them, any more 
than you or I.' 

^ And after some more talk we agreed that the wisdom 
of rats had been grossly overrated, being in fact na 
greater than that of men. 

** The story of the ship was known, by this, all up the 
Channel from Land's End to the Forelands, and wc 
could get no crew on the south coast. They sent us one 
all complete from Liverpool, and we left once more — for 

**We had fair breezes, smooth water right into the 
tropics, and the old Judea lumbered along in the sun- 
^ shine. When she went eight knots everything cracked 
aloft, and we tied our caps to our heads ; but mostly she 
strolled on at the rate of three miles an hour. What 
could you expect? She was tired— that old ship. Her X 
youth was where mine is — ^where yours is — ^you fellows 
who listen to this yam; and what friend would throw 



your years and your weariness in your face? We didn't 
grumble at her. To us aft, at least, it seemed as though 
we had been bom in her, reared in her, had lived in her 
for ages, had never known any other ship. I would 
just as soon have abused the old village church at home 
for not being a cathedral. 
NL " And for me there was also my youth to make me pa- 
tient. There was all the East before me, and all life, and 
the thought that I had been tried in that ship and had 
come out pretty well. And I thought of men of old who, 
centuries ago, went that road in ships that sailed no 
better, to the land of palms, and spices, and yellow sands, 
and of brown nations ruled by kings more cruel than 
Nero the Roman and more splendid than Solomon the 
Jew. The old bark lumbered on, heavy with her age 
and the burden of her cargo, while I lived the life of 
youth in ignorance and hope. She lumbered on through 
an interminable procession of days ; . and the fresh gild- 
ing flashed back at the setting sun, seemed to cry out 
over the darkening sea the words painted on her stem, 
* Judea^ London. Do or Die.' 

" Then we entered the Indian Ocean and steered north- 
erly for Java Head. The winds were light. Weeks 
slipped by. She crawled on, do or die, and people at 
home began to think of posting us as overdue. 

" One Saturday evening, I being off duty, the men 
asked me to give them an extra bucket of water or so— 
for washing clothes. As I did not wish to screw on the 
fresh-water pump so late, I went forward whistling, and 
with a key in my hand to unlock the f orepeak scuttle, 




intending ta serve the water out of a spare tank we kept 

^The smell down below was as unexpected as it was 
frightful. One would have thought hundreds of par^ 
affin-lamps had been flaring and smoking in that hole 
for days. I was glad to get out. The man with me 
coughed and said, * Funny smell, sir.' I answered negli* 
gently, * It's good for the health, they say,' and walked 

** The first thing I did was to put my head down the 
square of the midship ventilator. As I lifted the lid a 
visible breath, something like a thin fog, a puff of faint 
haze, rose from the opening. The ascending air was hot, 
and had a heavy, sooty, paraffiny smell. I gave one sniff, 
and put down the lid gently. It was no use choking my- 
self. The cargo was on fire. 

^ Next day she began to smoke in earnest. You see it 
was to be expected, for though the coal was of a safe 
kind, that cargo had been so handled, so broken up with 
handling, that it looked more like smithy coal than any- 
thing else. Then it had been wetted — ^more than once. 
It rained all the time we were taking it back from the 
hulk, and now with this long passage it got heated, and 
there was another case of spontaneous combustion. 

*^ The captain called us into the cabin. He had a chart 
spread on the table, and looked unhappy. He said, ^ The 
coast of West Australia is near, but I mean to proceed 
to our destination. It is the hurricane month too; but 
we will just keep her head for Bankok, and fight the fire. 
No more putting back anywhere, if we all get roasted. 



We will try first to stifle this 'ere damned combustion by 
want of air.' 

** We tried. We battened down everything, and still 
she smoked. The smoke kept coming out through im- 
perceptible crevices; it forced itself through bulkheads 
and covers; it oozed here and there and everywhere in 
slender threads, in an invisible film, in an incomprehen- 
sible manner. It made its way into the cabin, into the 
forecastle; it poisoned the sheltered places on the deck, 
it could be sniffed as high as the mainyard. It was 
clear that if the smoke came out the air came in. This 
was disheartening. This combustion refused to be stifled. 

" We resolved to try water, and took the hatches off. 
Enormous volumes of smoke, whitish, yeUowish, thick, 
greasy, misty, choking, ascended as high as the trucks. 


All hands cleared out aft. Then the poisonous cloud 
blew away, and we went back to work in a smoke that 
was no thicker now than that of an ordinary factory 

'* We rigged the force pump, got the hose along, and 
by-and-by it burst. Well, it was as old as the ship — ^a 
prehistoric hose, and past repair. Then we pumped with 
the feeble head-pump, drew water with buckets, and in 
this way managed in time to pour lots of Indian Ocean 
into the main hatch. The bright stream flashed in sun- 
shine, fell into a layer of white crawling smoke, and van- 
ished on the black surface of coal. Steam ascended 
mingling with the smoke. We poured salt water as into 
a barrel without a bottom. It was bur fate to pimip in 
that ship, to pump out of her, to pump into her; and 

[ 22 ] 


titer keeping water out of her to save ourselyes from 
bdng drowned, we frantically poured water into her to 
save ourselves from being burnt. 

" And she crawled on, do or die, in the serene weather. 
The sky was a miracle of purity, a miracle of azure. 
The sea was polished, was blue, was pellucid, was spark- 
ling like a precious stone, extending on all sides, all 
round to the horizon— as if the whole terrestrial globe 
bad been one jewel, one colossal sapphire, a single gem 
fashioned into a planet. And on the luster of the great 
calm waters the Judea glided imperceptibly, enveloped 
in languid and unclean vapors, in a lazy cloud that 
drifted to leeward, light and slow: a pestiferous cloud 
doling the splendor of sea and sky. ^--^ 

"All this time of course we saw no fire. The cargo 
smoldered at the bottom somewhere. Once Mahon, as 
we were working side by side, said to me with a queer 
smile : * Now, if she only would spring a tidy leak — • 
like that time when we first left the Channel — ^it would 
put a stopper on this fire. Wouldn't it? * I remarked 
irrelevantly, * Do you remember the rats? ' . 

" We fought the fire and sailed the ship too as carefully 
as though nothing had been the matter. The steward 
cooked and attended on us. Of the other twelve men, 
eight worked while four rested. Everyone took his 
turn, captain included. There was equality, and if not 
exactly fraternity, then a deal of good feeling. Some- 
times a man, as he dashed a bucketful of water down the 
hatchway, would yell out, * Hurrah for Bankok ! ' and the 
rest laughed. But generally we were taciturn and seri- 

f 23 1 


ous — ^and thirsty. Oh ! how thirsty ! And we had to be 
careful with the water. Strict allowance. The ship 
smoked, the sun blazed. • . . Pass the bottle. 

'* We tried everything. We even made an attempt to 
dig down to the fire. No good, of course. No man 
could remain more than a minute below. Mahon, who 
went first, fainted there, and the man who went to fetch 
him out did likewise. We lugged them out on deck. 
Then I leaped down to show how easily it could be done. 
They had learned wisdcHn by that time, and contented 
themselves by fishing for me with a chain-hook tied to a 
broom-handle, I believe. I did not offer to go and fetch 
up my shovel, which was left down below. 

** Things began to look bad. We put the long-boat 
into the water. The second boat was ready to swing out. 
We had also another, a fourteen-foot thing, on davits 
aft, where it was quite safe. 

" Then behold, the smoke suddenly decreased. We re- 
doubled our efforts to flood the bottom of the ship. In 
two days there was no smoke at all. Everybody was on 
the broad grin. This was on a Friday, On Saturday no 
work, but sailing the ship of coiu^e was done. The men 
washed their clothes and their faces for the first time in 
a fortnight, and had a special dinner given them. They 
spoke of spontaneous combustion with contempt, and 
implied they were the boys to put out combustions. Some- 
how we all felt as though we each had inherited a large 
fortune. But a beastly smeD of burning hung about the 
^hip. Captain Beard had hollow eyes and sunken cheeks. 
I had never noticed so much before bow twisted and 


bowed he was. "^e and Mahon prowled soberly about 

hatches and ventilators, sniffing. It struck me suddenly 
poor Mahon was a very, very old chap. As to me, I was 
as pleased and proud as though I had helped to win a 
great naval battle. O ! Youth ! ^ 

"The night was fine. In the morning a homeward- 
bound ship passed us hull down, — ^the first we had seen 
for months ; but we were nearing the land at last, Java 
Head being about 190 miles off, and nearly due 

"Next day it was my watch on deck from eight to 
twelve. At breakfast the captain observed, * It's wonder- 
ful how that smell hangs about the cabin.' About ten, 
the mate being on the poop, I stepped down on the main- 
deck for a moment. The carpenter's bench stood abaft 
the mainmast: I leaned against it sucking at my pipe, 
and the carpenter, a young chap, came to talk to me. He 
remarked, * I think we have done very well, haven't we? ' 
and then I perceived with annoyance the fool was try- 
ing to tilt the bench. I said curtly, * Don't, Chips,' and 
immediately became aware of a queer sensation, of an 
absurd delusion, — ^I seemed somehow to be in the air. I 
heard all round me like a pent-up breath released — as 
if a thousand giants simultaneously had said Fhoo! — 
and felt a dull concussion which made my ribs ache sud- 
denly. No doubt about it — I was in the air, and my 
body was describing a short parabola. But short as it 
was, I ha4 the time to think several thoughts in, as far 
as I can remember, the following order : * This can't be 
the carpenter — ^What is it? — Some accident — Submarine 


Tolcano? — Coals, gas! — ^By Jove! we are being blown 
up — ^Everybody's dead — ^I am falling into the after- 
hatch — I see fire in it.' 

*^ The coal-dust suspended in the air of the hold had 
glowed dull-red at the moment of the explosion. In 
the twinkling of an eye, in an infinitesimal fraction of a 
second since the first tilt of the bench, I was sprawling 
full length on the cargo. I picked myself up and scran- 
bled out. It was quick like a rebound. The deck was a 
wilderness of smashed timber, lying crosswise like trees in 
a wood after a hurricane; an immense oortain of soiled 
rags waved gently before me — ^it was the mainsail blown 
to strips. I thought. The masts will be toppling over 
directly; and to get out of the way bolted on all-fours 
towards the poop-ladder. The first person I saw was 
Mahon, with eyes like saucers, his mouth open, and the 
long white hair standing straight on end round his head 
like a silver halo. He was just about to go down when 
the sight of the main-deck stirring, heaving up, and 
changing into splinters before his eyes, petrified him oa 
the top step. I stared at him in unbelief, and he stared 
at me with a queer kind of shocked curiosity. I did not 
know that I had no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, that 
my young mustache was burnt off, that my face was 
black, one cheek laid open, my nose cut, and my chi» 
bleeding. I had lost my cap, one of my slippers, and 
my shirt was torn to rags. Of aU this I was not aware, 
I was amazed to see the ship still afloat, the poop-deck 
whole— and, most of all, to see anybody alive. Alsa 
the peace of the sky and the serenity of the sea were 

I «6 1 


distinctly surprising. I suppose I expected to see them 
convulsed with horror. ... Pass the bottle. 

"There was a voice haiHng the ship from somewhere 
— ^in the air, in the sky — I couldn't tell. Presently I 
saw the captain — and he was mad. He asked me eagerly, 
* Where's the cabin-table? * and to hear such a question 
was a frightful shock. I had just been blown up, you 
understand, and vibrated with that experience, — I wasn't 
quite sure whether I was alive. Mahon began to stamp 
with both feet and yelled at him, * Good God ! don't you 
see the deck's blown out of her? ' I found my voice, and 
stammered out as if conscious of some gross neglect of 
duty, * I don't know where the cabin-table is.' It was 
like an absurd dream. 

"Do you know what he wanted next? Well, he 
wanted to trim the yards. Very placidly, and as if lost 
in thought, he insisted on having the foreyard squared. 
'I don't know if there's anybody alive,' said Mahon, 
almost tearfully. * Surely,' he said, gently, * there will 
be enough left to square the foreyard.' 

"The old chap, it seems, was in his oVn berth, wind- 
ing up the chronometers, when the shock sent him spin- 
ning. Inuncdiately it occurred to him — as he said after- 
wards — ^that the ship had struck something, and he ran 
out into the cabin. There, he saw, the cabin-table had 
vanished somewhere. The deck being blown up, it had 
fallen down into the lazarette of course. Where we had 
our breakfast that morning he saw only a gr6at hole in 
the floor. This appeared to him so awfully mysterious, 
and impressed him so inunensely, that what he saw and 


^ <-v*-v. « .'-V cvx* (>-* I'^rt 


heard after he got on deck were mere trifles in com* 
parison. And, mark^ he noticed directly the wheel de- 
serted and his bark off her course — ^and his only 
thought was to get that miserable, stripped, undecked, 
smoldering shell of a ship back again with her head 
pointing at her port of destination. Bankok ! That's 
what he Vas after. I tell you this quiet, bowed, bandy- 
legged, almost deformed little man was immense in the 

. singleness of his idea and in his placid ignorance of 
our agitation. He motioned us forward with a com* 
manding gesture, and went to take the wheel him* 

" Yes ; that was the first thing we did — ^trim the yards 
of that wreck ! No one was killed, or even disabled, but 
everyone was more or less hurt. You should have seen 
them! Some were in rags, with black faces, like coal- 
heavers, like sweeps, and had bullet heads that seemed 
closely cropped, but were in fact singed to the skin. 
Others, of the watch below, awakened by being shot out 
from their collapsing bunks, shivered incessantly, and 
kept on groaning even as we went about our work. But 
they all worked. That crew of Liverpool hard cases had 
in them the right stuff* It's my experience they always 
have. It is the sea that gives it — ^the vastness, the lone* 

uliness surrounding their dark stolid souls. Ah! Well! 
we stumbled, we crept, we fell, we barked our shins on 
the wreckage, we hauled. The masts stood, but we did 
not know how much they might be charred down below* 
It was neatly calm, but a long swell ran from the west 
and made her roll. They might go at any moment. We 




looked at them with apprehension. One could not fore- 
see which way they would fall. 

"Then we retreated aft and looked about us. The 
deck was a tangle of planks on edge, of planks on end, 
of splinters, of ruined woodwork. ' The masts rose from 
that chaos like big trees above a matted undergrowth. 
The interstices of that mass of wreckage were full of 
something whitish, sluggish, stirring — of something that 
was like a greasy fog. The smoke of the invisible fire 
was coming up again, was trailing, like a poisonous thick 
mist in some valley choked with dead wood. Already 
lazy wisps were beginning to curl upwards amongst the 
mass of splinters. Here and there a piece of timber, 
stuck upright, resembled a post. Half of a fife-rail had 
been shot through the foresail, and the sky made a 
patch of glorious blue in the ignobly soiled canvas. A 
portion of several boards holding together had fallen 
across the rail, and one end protruded overboard, like a 
gangway leading upon nothing, like a gangway leading 
over the deep sea, leading to death — as if inviting us to 
walk the plank at once and be done with our ridiculous 
troubles. And still the air, the sky — ^a ghost, something 
uivisible was hailing the ship. 

" Someone had the sense to look over, and there was 
the helmsman, who had impulsively jumped overboard, 
anxious to come back. He yelled and swam lustily like 
a merman, keeping up with the ship. We threw him A 
^pe, and presently he stood amongst us streaming with 
water and very crest-fallen. The captain had surren- 
dered the wheel, and apart, elbow on rail and chin im 



- 1^ .'^ 




y hand, gazed at the sea wistfully. We asked ourselves^ 
What next? I thought. Now, this is something like. 
This is great. I wonder what will happen. O youth! 
' " Suddenly Mahon sighted a steamer far astern. Cap- 
tain Beard said, ' We may do something with her yet.' 
We hoisted two flags, which said in the international 
language of the sea, * On fire. Want immediate assis- 
tance.' The steamer grew bigger rapidly, and by-and- 
by spoke with two flags on her foremast, * I am coming 
to your assistance.' 

" In half an hour she was abreast, to windward, within 
hail, and rolling slightly, with her engines stopped. We 
lost our composure, and yelled all together with excite- 
ment, * We've been blown up.' A man in a white helmet, 
on the bridge, cried, *Yes! All right! all right!' and 
he nodded his head, and smiled, and made soothing mo- 
tions with his hand as though at a lot of frightened chil- 
dren. , One of the boats dropped in the water, and 
walked towards us upon the sea with her long oars. Four 
Calashes pulled a swinging stroke. This was my first 
sight of Malay seamen. I've known them since, but 
what struck me then was their unconcern: they came 
alongside, and even the bowman standing up and holding 
to our main-chains with the boat-hook did not deign to 
lift his head for a glance. I thought people who had 
been blown up deserved more attention. 

" A little man, dry like a chip and agile like a monkey, 
clambered up. It was the mate of the steamer. He 
gave one look, and cried, ' O boys — ^you had better quit.' 

^^ We were silent. He talked apart with the captain 



for a time, — seemed to argue with him. Then they wenl 
away together to the steamer. 

"When our skipper came back We learned that the 
steamer was the SommervUle, Captain Nash, from West 
Australia to Singapore via Batavia with mails, and that 
the agreement was she should tow us to Anjer or Ba- 
tavia, if possible, where we could extinguish the fire by 
scuttling, and then proceed on our voyage — ^to Bankok ! 
The old man seemed excited. * We will do it yet,' he 
said to Mahon, fiercely. He shook his fist at the sky. 
Nobody else said a word. 

" At noon the steamer began to tow. She went ahead 
slim and high, and what was left of the Judea followed 
at the end of seventy fathom of tow-rope, — followed 
her swiftly like a cloud of smoke with mastheads pro- 
truding above. We went aloft to furl the sails. We 
coughed on the yards, and were careful about the bunts. 
Do you see the lot of us there, putting a neat furl on the y^ 
sails of that ship doomed to arrive nowhere? There 
was not a man who didn't think that at any moment the 
masts would topple over. From aloft we could not see 
the ship for smoke, and they worked carefully, passing 
the gaskets with even turns. * Harbor furl — ^aloft 
there!' cried Mahon from below. 

"You understand this? I don't think one of those 
chaps expected to get down in the usual way. When 
we did I heard them sajdng to each other, * Well, I 
thought we would come down overboard, in a lump — 
sticks and all — ^blame me if I didn't.' ' That's what I 
was thinking to myself,' would answer wearily another 

r. 8U 


battered and bandkged scarecrow. And, mind, these were 
men without the drilled-in habit of obedience. T« an 
onlooker they would be a lot of profane scallywags 
without a redeeming point. What made them do it — 
what made them obey me when I> thinking consciously 
how fine it was> made them drop the bunt of the foresail 
twice to try and do it better? What? They had no pro- 
fessional reputation — ^no examples, no praise. It wasn't 
H sense of duty ; they all knew well enough how to shirk. 
Bad laze, and dodge — ^when they had a mind to it-^— and 
mostly they had. Wa,s it the two pounds ten a month 
that sent them there? They didn't think their pay half 
good enough. No; it was something in them, something 
inborn and subtle and everlasting. I don't say posi- 
tively that the crew of a French or German merchant- 
man wouldn't have done it, but I doubt whether it would 
have been done in the same way. There was a complete- 
ness in it, something solid like a principle, and masterful 
like an instinct — a disclosure of something secret — of 
, that hidden something, that gift, of good or evil that 
.. V makes racial difference, that shapes the fate of nations. 
^^ It was that night at ten that, for the first time since 
we had been fighting it, we saw the fire. The speed of 
the towing had fanned the smoldering destruction. A^ 
blue gleam appeared forward, shining below the wreck 
of the deck. It wavered in patches, it seemed to stir and 
creep like the light of a glowworm. I saw it first, and 
told Mahon. * Then the game's up,' he said. * We liad 
better stop this towing, or she will burst out suddenly 
fore and aft before we can clear out.' We set up a yell; 

.» / 



rang bells to attract their attention ; they towed on. At 
last Mahon and I had to crawl forward and cut the rope 
with an ax. There was no time to cast off the lashings. 
Red tongues could be seen licking the wilderness of 
splinters under our feet as we made our way back to the 

"Of course they very soon found out in the steamer 
that the rope was gone. She gave a loud blast of her 
whistle, her lights were seen sweeping in a wide circle, she 
came up ranging close alongside, and stopped. We were 
all in a tight group on the poop looking at her. Every 
man had saved a little bundle or a bag. Suddenly a con* 
ical flame with a twisted top shot up forward and threw 
upon the black sea a circle of light, with the two vessels 
side by side and heaving gently in its center. Captain 
Beard had been sitting on the gratings still and mute for 
hours, but now he rose slowly and advanced in front of 
us, to the mizzen-shrouds. Captain Nash hailed : * Come 
along ! Look sharp. I have mail-bags on board. I will 
take you and your boats to Singapore.' 

" * Thank you ! No ! * said our skipper. * We must see 
the last of the ship.' 

***I can't stand by any longer,' shouted the other. 
* Mails — ^you know.' 

"•Ay! ay! We are aU right.' 

"*Very well! I'll report you in Singapore. . . • 

" He waved his hand. Our men dropped their bundles 
quietly. The steamer moved ahead, and* passing out of 
the circle of light, vanished at once from our sight, daz* 

t 8S1 



ricd by the fire which burned fiercely. And then I kaew 

that I would see the East first as commander of a small 

boat. I thought it fine; and the fidelity to the old ship 

was fine. We should see the last of her. Oh the glamour 

of youth! Oh the fire of it, more dazzling than the 

I flames of the burning ship, throwing a magic light on the 

/) wide earth, leaping audaciously to the sky, presently to 

' ' be quenched by time, more cruel, more pitiless, more 

bitter than the sea — and like the flames of the burnimg 

' ship surrounded by an impenetrable night. 


The old man warned us in his gentle and inflexible 
way that it was part of our duty to save for the under- 
writers as much as we could of the ship's gear. Accord- 
ing we went to work aft, while she blazed forward to give 
us plenty of light. We lugged out a lot of rubbish. 
What didn't we save? An old barometer fixed with am 
absurd quantity of screws nearly cost me my life>, a 
sudden rush of smoke came upon me, and I just got 
away in time. There were various stores, bolts of canvas, 
coils of rope ; the poop looked like a marine bazaar, and 
the boats were lumbered to the gunwales. One would 
have thought the old man wanted to take as much as he 
could of his first command with him. He was very, very 
quiet, but off^ his balance evidently. Would you believe 
it? He wanted to take a length of old stream-cable and 
a kedge-anchor with him in the long-boat. We said, 
* Ay, ay, sir,' deferentially, and on the quiet let the 
thing slip overboard. The heavy medicine-chest went 

C 34. 3 




that way» two bags of green coffee, tins of paint — ^f ancyt 
paint! — a whole lot of things. Then I was ordered with 
two hands into the boats to make a stowage and get them 
ready against the time it would be proper for us to leave 
the ship. 

"We put everything straight, stepped the long-boat's 
mast for out skipper, who was to take charge of her, and 
I was not sorry to sit down for a moment. My face felt 
raw, every limb ached as if broken, I was aware of all 
my ribs, and would have sworn to a twist in the back- 
bone. The boats, fast astern, lay in a deep shadow, and 
aU around I could see the circle of the sea lighted by the 
fire. A gigantic flame arose forward straight and clear. 
It flared fierce, with noises li^e the whir of wings, with 
rumbles as of thunder. There were cracks, detonations, 
and from the cone of flame the sparks flew upwards, as '^ 
man is bom to trouble, to leaky ships, and to ships that j 

" What bothered me was that the ship, lying broadside 
to the swell and to such wind as there was — a mere breath 
— the boats would not keep astern where they were safe, 
but persisted, in a pig-headed way boats have, in getting 
under the counter and then swinging alongside. They 
were knocking about dangerously and coming near the 
flame, while the ship rolled on them, and, of course, there 
was always the danger of the masts going over the side 
at any mom^it. I and my two boat-keepers kept them 
off as best we could with oars and boat-hooks ; but to be 
constantly at it became exasperating, since there was no 
reason why we should not leave at once. We could not 




gee those on board, nor could we imagine what caused the 
delay. The boat-keepers were swearing feebly, and I 
had not only my share of the work, but also had to keep 
at it two men who showed a constant inclination to lay 
themselves down and let things slide. 

'^ At last I hailed ^ On deck there/ and someone looked 
over. * We're ready here,* I said. The head disap- 
peared, and very soon popped up again. * The captain 
says. All right, sir, and to keep the boats well clear of the 

** Half an hour passed. Suddenly there was a frightful 
racket, rattle, clanking of chain, hiss of water, and mil* 
lions of sparks flew up into the shivering column of smoke 
that stood leaning slightly above the ship. The cat* 
heads had burned away, and the two red-hot anchors had 
gone to the bottom, tearing out after them two hundred 
fathom of red-hot chain. The ship trembled, the mass of 
flame swayed as if ready to collapse, and the fore top* 
gallant-mast fell. It darted down like an arrow of fire, 
shot under, and instantly leaping up within an oar's* 
length of the boats, floated quietly, very black on the 
luminous sea. I hailed the deck again. After some time 
a man in an unexpectedly cheerful but also muffled tone, 
as though he had been trying to speak with his mouth 
shut, informed me, ^ Coming directly, sir,' and vanished. 
For a long time I heard nothing but the whir and roar 
of the fire. There were also whistling sounds. The boats 
jumped, tugged at the painters, ran at each other play* 
fully, knocked their sides together, or, do what we would, 
swung in a bunch against the ship's side. I couldn't 





stand it any longer, and swarming up a rope, clambered 
aboard over the stem. 

^* It was €is bright as day. Coming up like this, the 
sheet of fire facing me, was a terrifying sight, and the 
heat seemed hardly bearable at first. On a settee cushion 
dragged but of the cabin, Captain Beard, with his legs 
drawn up and one arm under his head, slept with the light 
playing on him. Do you, know what the rest were busy 
about? They were sitting on deck right aft, round an 
open case, eating bread and cheese and drinking bottled 

^^ On the background of flames twisting in fierce tongues 
above their heads they seemed at home like salamanders, 
and looked like a band of desperate pirates. The fire 
sparkled in the whites of their eyes, gleamed on patches 
of white skin seen through the torn shirts. Each had 
the marks as of a battle about him — ^bandaged heads, 
tied-up arms, a strip of dirty rag round a knee— and 
each man had a bottle between his legs and a chunk of 
cheese in his hand.^ Mahon got up. With his handsome 
and disreputable head, his hooked profile, hiA long white 
beard, and with an uncorked bottle in his hand, he re- 
sembled one of those reckless sea-robbers of old making 
merry amidst violence and disaster. * The last meal on 
board,' he explained solemnly. * We had nothing to eat 
all day, and it was no use leaving all this.' He flourished 
the bottle and indicated the sleeping skipper. * He said 
he couldn't swallow anything, so I got him to lie down,' 
be went on ; and as I stared, ^ I don't know whether you 
are aware, young fellow, the man had no sleep to speak 



of for days — ^and there will be dam' little sleep in the 
boats.' * There will be no boats by-and-by if you fool 
about much longer,' I said, indignantly. I walked up to 
the skipper and shook him by the shoulder. At last he 
opened his eyes, but did not move. * Time to leave her, 
sir,' I said, quietly. 

" He got up painfully, looked at the flames, at the sea 
sparkling round the ship, and black, black as ink farther 
away ; he looked at the stars shining dim through a thin 
veil of smoke in a sky black, black as Erebus. 

** * Youngest first,' he said. 

" And the ordinary seaman, wiping his mouth with the 
back of his hand, got up, clambered over the tafFrail, and 
vanished. Others followed. One, on the point of going 
over, stopped short to drain his bottle, and with a great 
swing of his arm flung it at the fire. * Take this ! ' he 

" The skipper lingered disconsolately, and we left him 
to commune alone for awhile with his first command. 
Then I went up again and brought him away at last. It 
was time. The ironwork on the poop was hot to the 

" Then the painter of the long-boat was cut, and the 
three boats, tied together, drifted clea?\Jf the ship. It 
was just sixteen hours after the explosion when we aban- 
doned her. Mahon had charge of the second boat, and I 
had the smallest — ^the 14j-foot thing. The long-boat 
would have taken the lot of us ; but the skipper said we 
must save as much property as we could — for the under- 
writers — ^and so I got my first command. I had two men 

[88 1 

1 i 


with me, a bag of biscuits, a few tins of meat, and a 
breaker of water. I was ordered to keep close to the 
long-boat, that in case of bad weather we might be taken 
into her. 

"And do you know what I thought.*^ I thought I 
would part company as soon as I could. I wanted to 
have my first conmiand all to myself. I wasn't going to 
sail in a squadron if there were a chance for independ-> 
ent cruising. I would make land by myself. I would 
beat the other boats. Youth! All youth! The silly, 
charming, beautiful youth. 

** But we did not make a start at once. We must see 
the last of the ship. And so the boats drifted about that 
night, heaving and setting on the swell. The men dozed, 
waked, sighed, groaned. I looked at the burning ship. 

" Between the darkness of, earth and heaven she ^Mrt 
burning fiercely upon a disc of purple sea shot by the 
blood-red play of gleams ; upon a disc of water glitter- 
ing and sinister. A high, clear flame, an immense and 
lonely flame, ascended from the ocean, and from its sum- 
mit the black smoke poured continuously at the sky. She 
burned furiously, mournful and imposing like a funeral 
pile kindled in the night, surrounded by the sea, watched 
over by the stars. A magnificent death had come like a 
grace, like a gift, like a reward to that old ship at the 
end of her laborious days. The surrender of her weary 
ghost to the keeping of stars and sea was stirring like the 
sight of a glorious triumph. The masts fell just before 
daybreak, and for a moment there was a burst and tur- 
moil of sparks that seemed to fill with flying fire the night 

[39 1 


patient and watchful, the vast night lying silent upon 
the sea. At daylight she was only a charred shell, float- 
ing still under a cloud of smoke and bearing a glowingf 
mass of coal within. 

*^ Then the oars were got out, and the boats forming iu 
a line moved round her remains as if in procession — ^the 
long-boat leading. As we pulled across her stern a slim 
dart of fire shot out viciously at us, and suddenly she 
went down, head first, in a great hiss of steam. The 
unconsumed stem was the last to sink ; but the paint had 
gone, had cracked, had peeled off, and there were no 
letters, there was no word, no stubborn device that was 
like her soul, to flash at the rising sun her creed and her 

^^ We made our way north. A breeze sprang up, and 
about noon all the boats came together for the last time. 
I had no mast or sail in mine, but I made a mast out of a 
spare oar and hoisted a boat-awning for a sail, with a 
boat-hook for a yard. She was certainly ovei'-masted, 
but I had the satisfaction of knowing that with the wind 
aft I could beat the other two. I had to wait for them. 
Then we all had a look at the captain's chart, and, after 
a sociable meal of hard bread and water, got our last 
instructions. These were simple : steer north, and keep 
together as much as possible. * Be careful with that 
jury rig, Marlow,' said the captain; and Mahon, as I 
sailed proudly past his boat, wrinkled his curved nose 
and hailed, *You will sail that ship of yours under 
water, if you don't look out, young fellow.' He was a 
malicious old man — and may the deep sea where he sleeps 



now rock him gently, rock him tenderly to the end of 

^^ Before sunset a thick rain-squall passed over the two 
boats, which were far astern, and that was the last I 
saw of them for a time. Next day I sat steering my 
cockle-shell — ^my first command — ^with nothing but water 
and sky around me. I did sight in the afternoon the 
upper sails of a ship far away, but said nothing, and my 
men did not notice her. You see I was afraid she might 
be homeward bound, and I had no mind to turn back 
from the portals of the East. I was steering for Java — 
another blessed name — ^like Bankok, you know. I steered 
many days. 

'^ I need not tell you what it is to be knocking about in 
an open boat. I remember nights and days of calm when 
we pulled, we pulled, and the boat seemed to stand still, 
as if bewitched within the circle of the sea horizon. I 
remember the heat, the deluge of rain-squalls that kept 
us baling for dear life (but filled our water-cask), and I 
remember sixteen hours on end with a mouth dry as a 
cinder and a steering-oar over the stem to keep my first 
command head on to a breaking sea. I did not know how 
good a man I was till then.'"''^! remember the dratvn faces, 
the dejected figures of my two men, and I remember my 
youth and the feeling that will never come back any 
more — ^the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the 
«ea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that \ 
lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain eflTort — ^to \ 
death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat i 
of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that \ 

[41 J 


with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and ex- 
pires — and expires, too soon, too soon — ^before life itself 

^ And this is how I see the East. I have seen its secret 
places and have looked into its very soul ; but now I see 
it always from a small boat, a high outline of mountains, 
blue and afar in the morning; like faint mist at noon ; a 
jagged wall of purple at sunset. I have the feel of the 
oar in my hand^ the vision of a scorching blue sea in my 
eyes. And I see a bay, a wide bay, smooth as glass and 
polished like ice, shimmering in the dark. A red light 
bums far off upon the gloom of the land, and the night 
is soft and warm. AVe drag at the oars, with aching arms, 
and suddenly a puff of wind, a puff faint and tepid and 
laden with strange odors of blossoms, of aromatic wood, 
comes out of the still night — ^the first sigh of the East on 
my f aceT^.' That I can never forget. It was impalpable 
and enslaving, like a charm, like a whispered promise of 
mysterious delight. 

" We had been pulling this finishing spell for eleven 
hours. Two pulled, and he whose turn it was to rest sat 
at the tiller. We had made out the red light in that bay 
and steered for it, guessing it must mark some small 
coasting port. We passed two vessels, outlandish and 
high-stemed, sleeping at anchor, and, approachmg the 
light, now very dim, ran the boat's nose against the end 
of a jutting wharf. We were blind with fatigue. My 
men dropped the oars and fell off the thwarts as if dead. 
I made fast to a pile. A current rippled softly. The 
scented obscurity of the shore was grouped into vast 
masses, a density of colossal clumps of vegetation, prob* 


ably — ^mute and fantastic shapes. And at their foot the 
semicircle of a beach gleamed faintly, like an illusion. 
There was not a light, not a stir, not a sound. The mys- 
terious East faced me/perfumed like a flower, silent like 
death, dark like a graved 

** And I sat weary beyond expression, exulting like a 
conqueror, sleepless and entranced as if before a pro- 
found, a fateful enigma. 

** A splashing of oars, a measured dip reverberating 
on the level of water, intensified by the silence of the 
shore into loud claps, made me jump up. A boat, a 
European boat, was coming in. I invoked the name 
of the dead; I hailed: Judea ahoy! A thin shout an- 

" It was the captain. I had beaten the flagship by three 
hours, and I was glad to hear the old man's voice again, 
tremulous and tired. 'Is it you, Marlow?' 'Mind the 
end of that jetty, sir,* I cried. 

** He approached cautiously, and brought up with the 
deep-sea lead-line which we had saved — for the under- 
writers. I eased my painter and fell alongside. He 
sat, a broken figure at the stern, wet with dew, his hands 
clasped in his lap. His men were asleep already. * I 
had a terrible time of it,' he murmured. * Mahon is be- 
hind — ^not very far.' We conversed in whispers, in low 
whispers, as if afraid to wake up the land. Guns, thun- 
der, earthquakes would not have awakened the men just 

^^ Looking around as we talked, I saw away at sea a 
bright light traveling in the night, ^ There's a steamer 



passing tfie baj,' I said. She was not passing, she was 
entering, and she even came close and anchored. * I 
wish,' said the old man, * you would find out whether she 
is English. Perhaps they could give us a passage some- 
where.' He seemed nervously anxioijjs. So by dint of 
punching and kicking I starts one of my men into a 
state of somnambulism, and giving him an oar, took 
another and pulled towards the lights of the steamer. 

" There was a murmur of voices in her, metallic hollow 
clangs of the engine-room, footsteps on the deck. Her 
ports shone, round like dilated eyes. Shapes moved 
about, and there was a shadowy man high up on the 
bridge. He heard my oars. 

" And then, before I could open my lips, the East spoke 
to me, but it was in a Western voice. A torrent of words 
was poured into the enigmatical, the fateful silence; 
outlandish, angry words, mixed with words and even 
whole sentences of good English, less strange but even 
more surprising. The voice swore and cursed violently ; 
it riddled the solemn peace of the bay by a volley of 
abuse. It began by calling me Pig, and from that went 
crescendo into unmentionable adjectives — ^in English. 
The man up there raged aloud in two languages, and 
with a sincerity in his fury that almost convinced me I 
had, in some way, sinned against the harmony of the 
universe. I could hardly see him, but began to think he 
would work himself into a fit. 

" Suddenly he ceased, and I could hear him snorting and 
blowing like a porpoise. I said — 

** * What steamer is this, pray? ' 

[ 44 ] 


"*Eh? What's this? And who are you? * 

^^ * C€ustawaj crew of an English bark burnt at sea. 
We came here to-night. I am the second mate. The 
captain is in the long-boat, and wishes to know if you 
would give us a passage somewhere.' 

^^ ^ Oh, my goodness ! I say. • . • This is the Celestial 
from Singapore on her return trip. I'll arrange with 
your captain in the morning, . • • and, • • • I say, 
. . . did you hear me just now? ' 

" * I should think the whole bay heard you.' 

" * I thought you were a shore-boat. Now, look here — 
this infernal lazy scoundrel of a caretaker has gone to 
sleep again — curse him. The light is out, and I nearly 
ran foul of the end of this damned jetty. This is the 
third time he plays me this trick. Now, I ask you, can 
anybody stand this kind of thing? It's enough to drive 
a man out of his mind. I'll report him. • • • 111 get the 
Assistant Resident to give him the sack, by . . . See — 
there's no light. It's out, isn't it? I take you to witness 
the light's out. There should be a light, you know. A 
red light on the ^ 

" * There was a light,' I said, mildly. 

" * But it's out, man ! What's the use of talking like 
this? You can see for yourself it's out — don't you? If 
you had to take a valuable steamer along this God-for* 
saken coast you would want a light too. I'll kick him 
from end to end of his miserable wharf. You'll see if I 
don't. I will ' 

" * So I may tell my captain you'U take us? ' I broke in. 

" * Yes, I'll take you. Gk)od night,' he said, brusquely. 

[ *6 ] 



^^ I pulled back, made fast again to the jetty, and then 
went to sleep at last. I had faced the silence of the 
£6ist. I had heard some of its languages. But when I 
opened my eyes again the silence was as complete as 
though it had never been broken. I was lying in a 
flood of light, and the sky had never looked so far, so 
high, before. I opened my eyes and lay without moving. 

"And then I saw the men of the East — ^they were 
looking at me. The whole length of the jetty was 
full of people. I saw brown, bronze, yellow faces, 
the black eyes, the glitter, the color of an Eastern 
crowd. And all these beings stared without a mur- 
mur, without a sigh, without a movement. They 
stared down at the boats, at the sleeping men who at 
night had come to them from the sea. Nothing moved. 
The fronds of palms stood still against the sky. Not a 
branch stirred along the shore, and the brown roofs of 
hidden houses peeped through the green foliage, through 
the big leaves that hung sliining and still like leaves 
forged of heavy metal. This was the East of the ancient 
navigators, so old, so mysterious, resplendent and 
somber, living and unchanged, full of danger and prom- 
ise. And these were the men. I sat up suddenly. A 
wave of movement passed through the crowd from end 
to end, passed along the heads, swayed the bodies, ran 
along the jetty like a ripple on the water, like a breath 
of wind on a field — ^and all was still again. I see it now 
— the wide sweep of the bay, the glittering sands, the 
wealth of green infinite and varied, the sea blue like the 
sea of a dream, the crowd of attentive faces, the blaze of 

[ 46] 


vivid color — ^the water reflecting it all, the curve of the 
shore, the jetty, the high-stemed outlandish craft float- 
ing still, and the three boats with tired men from the 
West sleeping unconscious of the land and the people 
and of the violence of sunshine. They slept thrown 
across the thwarts, curled on bottom-boards, in the care- 
less attitudes of death. The head of the old skipper, 
leaning back in the stern of the long-boat, had fallen on 
his breast, and he looked as though he would never wake. 
Farther out old Mahon's face was upturned to the sky, 
with the long white beard spread out on his breast, as 
though he been shot where he sat at the tiller; and a 
man, all in a heap in the bows of the boat, slept with both 
arms embracing the stem-head and with his cheek laid on 
the gunwale. The Ecist looked at them without a sound. 

" I have known its fascinations since : I have seen the 
mysterious shores, the still water, the lands of brown na- 
tions, where a stealthy Nemesis lies in wait, pursues, 
overtakes so many of the conquering race, who are proud 
of their wisdom, of their knowledge, of their strength. 
But for me all the East is contained in that vision of my 
youth. It is all in that moment when I opened my young 
eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with the sea — 
and I was young — and I saw it looking at me. And this 
is all that is left of it ! Only a moment ; a moment of 
strength, of romance, of glamour — of youth ! . • . A 
flick of sunshine upon a strange shore, the time to re- 
member, the time for a sigh, and — good-by! — ^Night — 
Good-by ... I" 

He drank. 



" Ah ! The good old time — ^the good old time. Youth 
and the sea. Glamour and the sea! The good, strong 
sea, the salt, bitter sea, that could whisper to you and 
roar at you and knock your breath out of you." 

He drank again. 

\ " By all that's wonderful, it is the sea, I believe, the sea 

itself — or is it youth alone? VHio can tell? But you 

here — ^you all had something out of life: money, love — 

whatever one gets on shore — and, tell me, wasn't that the 

best time, that time when we were young at sea; young 

and had nothing, on the sea that gives nothing, except 

f hard knocks — and sometimes a chance to feel your 

' " streligth — ^that only — ^what you all regret? " 

And we all nodded at him : the man of iSnance, the man 
of accounts, the man of law, we all nodded at him over 
the polished table that like a still sheet of brown water 
reflected our faces, lined, wrinkled; our faces marked 
by toil, by deceptions, by success, by love; our weary 
eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for 
something out of life, that while it is expected is already 
gone — ^has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash — ^togethei- 
with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of 





r ••■•.!»&.._ 


The Nellie^ a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor with' 
out a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood 
had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound 
down the river, the only thing for it was to come to 
and wait for the turn of the tide. 

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like 
the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the 
offing the sea and the sky were welded together without 
a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of 
the barges drifting up with the tiae seemea to stand 
still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with 
gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low 
shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The 
air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still 
seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding mo- 
tionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth. 

The Director of Companies was our captain and our 
host. We four affectionately watched his back as he 
stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole 
river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He 
resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness 
personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not 
out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within 
the brooding gloom. 




Between us there was, as I have already said some- 
where, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts 
together through long periods of separation, it had the 
effect of making us tolerant of each other's yams — and 
even convictions. The Lawyer — ^the best of old fellows 
— ^had, because of his many years and many virtues, the 
only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. 
The Accountant had brought out already a box of 
dominoes, and was toying architecturaUy with the bones. 
Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the 
mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complex- 
ion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his 
arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled 
an idol. The Director, satisfied the anchor had good 
hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We 
exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was 
silence on board the yacht. For some reason or other 
we did not begin that game of dominoes. ! We felt medi- 
tative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day 
was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. 
The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, 
was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very 
mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant 
fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping 
the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to 
the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more 
somber every minute, as if angered by the approach 
of the sun. 

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, tho 
sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a 

[ 62 ] 


dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to 
go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that 
gloom brooding over a crowd of men. 

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the 
serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The 
old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline 
of day, after ages of good service done to the race that 
peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of 
a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. 
We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush 
of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in 
the august Hght of abiding mLories. And indeed 
nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, 
•* followed the sea " with reverence and aflFection, than 
to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower 
reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and 
fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of 
men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the 
battles of the sea. It had known and served all the 
men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis 
Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and un- 
titled — ^the great knights-errant of the sea. It had 
borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing 
in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning 
with her round flanks full of treasure, to be visited by 
the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic 
tale, to the Erebtis and Terror y bound on other conquests 
— end that never returned. It had known the ships and 
the men. They had sailed from Deptford, from Green- 
wich^ from Erith — ^the adventurers and the settlers; 



kings' ships and the ships of men on 'Change; captains, 
admirals, the dark ^^ interlopers " of the Eastern trade, 
and the commissioned ^^ generals " of East India fleets. 
Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone 
out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the 
torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers 
of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had 
not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of 
an unknown earth ! . . . The dreams of men, the seed 
of commonwealths, the germs of empires. 

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights 
began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light- 
house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone 
strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway — ^a 
great stir of Ughts going up and going down. And 
farther west on the upper reaches the place of the mon- 
strous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a 
brooding j^oom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the 

" 4si-tiUfl--flJso>" said Marlow suddenly, " h gg bee n 
one_of the dark places of the eart h.'' 

He was the only man of us who still " followed the 
sea." The worst that could be said of him was that 
he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he 
was a wanderer too, while most seamen lead, if one may 
so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the 
stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them 
— ^the ship; and so is their country — ^the sea. One ship 
is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. 
In the immutability of their surrouQClings the foreign 



shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, 
glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a 
slightly disdainful ignorance ; for there is nothing mys- 
terious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is 
the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. 
For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or 
a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the 
secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the 
secret not worth knowing. The yams of seamen have a 
direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within 
the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical 
(if his propensity to spin yams be excepted), and to 
him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a 
kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it 
out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of 
one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible 
by the spectral illumination of moonshine. 

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was 
just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one 
tock the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, 
very slow — 

'* I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans 
first came here, nineteen himdred years ago — ^the other 
day. . . . Light came out of this river since — ^you 
say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a 
plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live 
in the flicker — may it last as long as the old earth keeps 
rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine 
the feelings of a commander of a fine — ^what d'ye caU 
W? — ^trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly 

[66 ] 


to the north ; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry ; 
put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries, — a 
wonderful lot of handy men they must have been too — 
used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month 
or two^ if we may believe what we read. Imagine him 
here — ^Cie very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, 
a sky tne color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid 
as a concertin^--and going up this river with stores, or 
orders, or what you like. Sandbanks, marshes, forests, 
savages, — ^precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, 
nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine 
here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp 
lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay — 
cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death, — death 
skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They 
must have been dying like flies here. Oh yes — ^he did it. 
Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking 
much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what 
he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were 
men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was 
cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to 
the fleet at Ravenna by-and-by, if he had good friends 
in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of 
a decent young citizen in a toga — ^perhaps too much 
dice, you know — coming out here in the train of some 
prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his 
fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, 
and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter 
savagery, had closed round him, — all that mysterious 
life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, ia the 



jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation 
either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst 
of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And 
it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. 
The fascination of the abomination — ^you know. 
Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the 
powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." 
He paused. 

" Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the 
elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his 
legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha 
preaching in European clothes and without a lotus- 
flower — ^^ Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. 
What saves us is efficiency — ^the devotion to efficiency. 
But these chaps were not much account, really. They 
were no colonists; their administration was merely a 

I squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were con- 
querors, and for that you want only brute force — ^nothing 
to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is 

! just an accident arising from the weakness of others. 
They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what 
was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggra- 

' vated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind 
— as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The 

1 conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking 
it away £rom those who have a different complexion or 
slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing 

' when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the 
idea only. An idea at the back of it ; not a sentimental 
pretense but an idea ; and an unselfish belief in the idea 


' — something you can set up, arid bow down before, and 
offer a sacrifice to. ..." 

He broke off. Flames glided in the river, small green 
flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, 
joining, crossing each other — theuuseparating slowly or 
hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the 
deepening night upon the sleepless river. We looked 
on, waiting patiently — ^there was nothing else to do till 
the end of the flood ; but it was only after a long silence, 
when he said, in a hesitating voice, " I suppose you fel- 
lows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a 
bit,'* that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began 
to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive ex- 

*il don't want to bother you much with what hap- 
pened to me personally," he began, showing in this re- 
mark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem 
so often unaware of what their audience would best like 
to hear ; " yet to understand the effect of it on me you 
ought to know how I got out there, what I saw, how I 
went up that river to the place where I first met the 
poor chap. It was the farthest point of navigation and 
the culminating point of my experience. It seemed some- 
how to throw a kind of light on everything about me — 
and into my thoughts. It was somber enough too — and 
pitiful — not extraordinary in any way — ^not very clear 
either. No, not very clear. And yet it iseemed to throw 
a kind of light. 

" I had then, as you remember, just returned to Lon- 
don after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas — • 



a regular dose of the East — six years or so, and I was 
loafing about, hindering you fellows in your work and 
invading your homes, just as though I had got a 
heavenly mission to civilize you. It was very fine for 
a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting. Then 
I began to look for a ship — I should think the hardest 
work on earth. But the ships wouldn't even look at me. 
And I got tired of that game too. 

" Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for 
maps. I would look for hours at South America, or 
Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories 
of exploration. At that time there were many blank 
spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked 
particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) 
I would put my finger on it and say. When I gtow up 
I will go there. The North Pole was one of these places, 
I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet, and shall 
not try now. The glamour's off. Other places were 
scattered about the Equator, and in every sort of lati- 
tude all over the two hemispheres. I have been in some 
of them, and . . . well, we won't talk about that. But 
there was one yet — the biggest, the most blank, so to 
speak — that I had a hankering after. 

" True, by this time it was not a blank space any 
more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers 
and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space 
of delightful mystery — ^a white patch for a boy to dream 
gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But 
there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, 
that you could see on the map, resembling an immense 




snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at 
rest curving afar over a v^st country, and its tail lost 
in the depths of the land. / And as I looked at the map 
of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would 
a bird — a silly little bird./ Then I remembered there was 
a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash 
it all! I thought to myself, they can't trade without 
using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water — 
steamboats! Why shouldn't I try to get charge of 
one. I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake 
off the idea. The snake had charmed me. 

" You understand it was a Continental concern, that 
Trading society; but I have a lot of relations living 
on the Continent, because it's cheap and not so nasty 
as it looks, they say. 

" I am sorry to own I began to worry them. This was 
already a fresh departure for me. I was not used to 
get things that way, you know. I always went my own 
road and on my own legs where I had a mind to go. I 
wouldn't have believed it of myself; but, then — ^you see 
— I felt somehow I must get there by hook or by crook. 
So I worried them. The men said * My dear fellow,' and 
did nothing. Then — would you believe it? — ^I tried the 
women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work — ^to 
get a job. Heavens ! Well, you see, the notion drove 
me. I had an aunt, a dear enthusiastic soul. She wrote : 
* It will be delightful. I am ready to do anything, any- 
thing for you* It is a glorious idea. I know the wife 
of a very high personage' in the Administration, and 
also a man who has lots of influence with,' &c., &c. She 

[ 60 ] 


was determined to make no end of fuss to get me ap- 
pointed skipper of a river steamboat, if such was my 
" I got my appointment — of course ; and I got it very 
quick. It appears the Company had received news that 
one of their captains had been killed in a scuffle with 
the natives. This was my chance, and it made me the 
more anxious to go. It was only months and months 
afterwards, when I made the attempt to recover what 
was left of the body, that I heard the original quarrel 
arose from a misunderstanding about some hens. Yes, 
two black hens. ' Fresleven — ^that was the fellow's name, 
a Dane — thought himself wronged somehow in the bar- 
gain, so he went ashore and started to hammer the chief 
of the village with a stick. Oh, it didn't surprise me 
in the least to hear this, and at the same time to be told 
that Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that 
ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; but he 
had been a couple of years already out there engaged 
in the noble cause, you know, and he probably felt the 
need at last of asserting his self-respect in some way. 
Therefore he whacked the old nigger mercilessly, while 
a big crowd of his people watched him, thunderstruck, 
till some man, — I was told the chief's son, — in despera- 
tion at hearing the old chap yell, made a tentative jab 
with a spear at the white man — ^and of course it went 
quite easy between the shoulder-blades. Then the whole 
population cleared into the forest, expecting all kinds 
of calamities to happen, while, on the other hand, the 
steamer Fresleven commanded left also in a bad panic^ 

[ 61 1 


in charge of the engineer, I believe. Afterwards nobody 
seemed to trouble much about Fresleven's remains, till 
I got out and stepped into his shoes. I couldn't let 
it rest, though ; but when an opportunity offered at last 
to meet my predecessor, the grass growing through his 
ribs wau5 tall enough to hide his bones. They were all 
there. The supernatural being had not been touched 
after he fell. And the village was deserted, the huts 
gaped black, rotting, all askew within the fallen en- 
closures. A calamity had come to it, sure enough. The 
people had vanished. Mad terror had scattered them, 
men, women, and children, through the bush, and they 
had never returned. What became of the hens I don't 
know either. I should think the cause of progress got 
them, anyhow. However, through this glorious affair I 
got my appointment, before I had fairly begun to hope 
for it. 

" I flew around like mad to get ready, and before forty- 
eight hours I was crossing the Channel to show myself 
to my employers, and sign the contract. In a very few 
hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of 
a whited sepulcher. Prejudice no doubt. T had no 
difficulty in finding the Company's offices. It was the 
biggest thing in the town, and everybody I met was 
full of it. They were going to run an over-sea empire, 
and make no end of coin by trade. 

" A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high 
houses, innumerable windows with Venetian blinds, a dead 
silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing 
carriage archways right and left, immense double doors 

t 62 ] 


standing ponderously ajar. I slipped through one of 
these cracks, went up a swept and ungamished staircase, 
as arid as a desert, and opened the iSrst door I came to.^ 
Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw- 
bottomed chairs, knitting black wool. The sUm one got 
up and walked straight at me — still knitting with down- 
cast eyes — and only just as I began to think of getting 
out of her way, as you would for a somnambulist, stood 
still, and looked up. Her dress was as plain as an um- 
breDa-cover, and she turned roimd without a word and 
preceded me into a waiting-room. I gave my name, and 
looked about. Deal table in the middle, plain chairs all 
round the walls, on one end a large shining map, marked^ 
with all the colors of a rainbow. There was a vast 
amount of red — good to see at any time, because one 
knows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a 
lot of blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, on the 
East Coast, a purple patch, to show where the jolly 
pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer. How- j 
ever, I wasn't going into any of these. I was going 
into the yellow. Dead in the center. And the river 
was there — fascinating — deadly — ^like a snake. Ough! 
A door opened, a white-haired secretarial head, but 
wearing a compassionate expression, appeared, and a 
skinny forefinger beckoned me into the sanctuary. Its 
light was dim, and a heavy writing-desk squatted in the 
middle. From behind that structure came out an im- 
pression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. The great 
man himself. He was five feet six, I should judge, and 
had his grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions. 

[ 63] 


He shook hands, I fancy, murmured vaguely, was satis- 
fied with my French. Bon vcyage. 

" In about forty-five seconds I found myself again in 
the waiting-room with the compassionate secretary, who, 
full of desolation and sympathy, made me sign some 
document. I believe I undertook amongst other things 
not to disclose any trade secrets. Well, I am not going 

" I began to feel slightly uneasy. You know I am 
liot used to such ceremonies, and there was something 
ominous in the atmosphere. It was just as though I 
had been let into some conspiracy — I don't know — some- 
thing not quite right; and I was glad to get out. In 
the outer room the two women knitted black wool fever- 
ishly. People were arriving, and the younger one was 
walking back and forth introducing them. The old 
one sat on her chair. Her flat cloth slippers were 
propped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on 
her lap. She wore a starched white affair on her head, 
had a wart on one cheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles 
hung on the tip of her nose. She glanced at me above 
the glasses. The swift and indifferent placidity of that 
look troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheery 
countenances were being piloted over, and she threw at 
them the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom. She 
seemed to know all about them and about me too. An 
eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncanny and 
fateful. Often far away there I thought of these two, 
guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as 
for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continu- 

re* 3 


ously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery 
and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. Ave! Old 
knitter of black wool. Moritwri te salutant. Not many 
of those she looked at ever saw her again— not half, 
by a long way. 

" There was yet a visit to the doctor. * A simple for- 
mality,' assured me the secretary, with an air of taking 
an immense part in all my sorrows. Accordingly a 
young chap wearing his hat over the left eyebrow, some 
clerk I suppose, — ^there must have been clerks in the busi- 
ness, though the house was as still as a house in a city 
of the dead, — came from somewhere up-stairs, and led 
me forth. He was shabby and careless, with ink-stains 
on the sleeves of his jacket, and his cravat was large and 
billowy, under a chin shaped like the toe of an old boot. 
It was a little too early for the doctor, so I proposed 
a drink, and thereupon he developed a vein of joviality. 
As we sat over our vermouths he glorified the Company's 
business, and by-and-by I expressed casually my sur- 
prise at him not going out there. He became very cool 
and collected all at once. * I am not such a fool as I 
look, quoth Plato to his disciples,' he said sententiously, y" 
emptied his glass with great resolution, and we rose. 

" The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of 
something eke the while. * Good, good for there,* he 
mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me 
whether I would let him measure my head. Rather sur- 
prised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers 
and got the dimensions back and front and every way, 
taking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man 

[ 66 ] 


in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in 
slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. ^ I always 
ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the 
crania of those going out there,' he said. ^ And when 
they come back too? * I asked. * Oh, I never see them,' 
he remarked ; * and, moreover, the changes take place in- 
side, you know.' He smiled, as if at some quiet joke. 

* So you are going out there. Famous. Interesting too.* 
He gave me a searching glance, and made another note. 

* Ever any madness in your family?' he asked, in a 
matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed. ' Is ' that 
question in the interests of science too? ' * It would be,' 
he said, without taking notice of my irritation, * interest- 
ing for science to watch the mental changes of individ- 
uals, on the spot, but . . . ' ^ Are you an alienist? ' I 
interrupted. * Every doctor should be — ^a little,' an- 
swered that original, imperturbably. * I have a little 
theory which you Messieurs who go out there must help 
me to prove. This is my share in the advantages my 
country shall reap from the possession of such a mag- 
nificent dependency. The mere wealth I leave to others. 
Pardon my questions, but you are the first Englishman 
coming under my observation. . . .' I hastened to 
assure him I was not in the lefiust typical. * If I were,' 
said I, * I wouldn't be talking like this with you.' * What 
you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous,' he 
said, with a laugh. * Avoid irritation more than expos- 
ure to the sun. Adieu. How do you English say, eh? 
Good-by. Ah ! Grood-by. Adieu. In the tropics one 
must before everything keep calm.* . . . He lifted a 

[ 66] 


warning forefinger. . . . ' Du calmej du calme* 

" One thing more remained to do — say good-by to 
my excellent aunt. I found her triumphant. I had a 
cup af tea — ^the last decent cup of tea for many days 
— ^and in a Tomm that most soothingly looked just as you 
would expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we had a 
long quiet chat by the fireside. In the course of these 
confidences it became quite plain to me I had been repre- 
sented to the wife of the high dignitary, and goodness 
knows to how many more people besides, as an excep- 
tional and gifted creature — ^a piece of good fortune for 
the Company — ^a man you don't get hold of every day. 
Good heavens! and I was going to take charge of a 
two-penny-halfpenny river-steamboat with a penny 
whistle attached ! It appeared, however, I was also one 
of the Workers, with a capital — ^you know. Something 
like an emissary of light, something like a lower sort 
of apostle. There had been a lot of such rot let loose 
in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent 
woman, living right in the rush of all that humbug, got 
carried off her feet. She talked about * weaning those 
ignorant millions from their horrid ways,' till, upon my 
word, she made me quite uncomfortable. I ventured to 
hint that the Company was run for profit. 

** * You forget, dear Charlie, that the laborer is worthy 
of his hire,* she said, brightly. It's queer how out of 
touch with truth women are. They live in a world of 
their own, and there had never been anything like it, 
and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and 



if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before 
the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have 
been living contentedly with ever since the day of cre- 
ation would start up and knock the whole thing over. 

" After this I got embraced, told to wear flannel, be 
sure to write often, and so on — ^and I left. In the street 
— I don't know why — ^a queer feeling came to me that I 
was an impostor. Odd thing that I, who used to clear 
out for any part of the world at twenty-four hours* 
notice, with less thought than most men give to the cross- 
ing of a street, had a moment — ^I won't say of hesitation, 
but of startled pause, before this commonplace affair. 
The best way I can explain it to you is by saying that, 
for a second or two, I felt as though, instead of going 
to the center of a continent, I were about to set off for 
the center of the earth. 

" I left in a French steamer, and she called in every 
blamed port they have out there, for, as far as I could 
see, the sole purpose of landing soldiers and custom- 
house officers. I, watched the coast. Watching a coast 
as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. 
There it is before you — ^smiling, frowning, inviting, 
grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with 
an air of whispering. Come and find out. This one was 
almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an 
aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal 
jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed 
with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far 
away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a 
creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to 



glisten and drip with steam. Here and there grajdsh- 
whitish specks showed up, clustered inside the white surf, 
with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some 
centuries old, and still no bigger than pin-heads on the 
untouched expanse of their background. We pounded 
along, stopped, landed soldiers ; went on, landed custom- 
house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-for- 
saken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in 
it; landed more soldiers — ^to take care of the custom- 
house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned 
in the surf ; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed 
particularly to care. They were just flung out there, 
and on we wenL Every day the coast looked the same, 
as though we had not moved; but we passed various 
places — trading places — ^with names like Gran' Bassam 
Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid 
farce acted in front of a sinister backcloth. The idle- 
ness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men 
with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and lan- 
guid sea, the uniform sombemess of the coast, seemed 
to keep me away from the truth of things, within the 
toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of 
the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, 
like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, 
that had its reason, that had a meaning. Now and then 
a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact 
with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. ( You 
could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glisten- 
ing. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with 
perspiration ; they had faces like grotesque masks — ^these 



chaps ; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an in- 
tense energy of movement, that was as natural and true 
as the surf along their coast. \ They wanted no excuse 
for being there. They were a great comfort to look at. 
For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of 
straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last 
long. Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, 
I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off 
the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she 
was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one 
of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped 
limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns 
stuck out all over the lov/ hull; the greasy, slimy swell 
swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin 
masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, 
there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. 
Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame 
would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would dis- 
appear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech — 
and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There 
wais a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of 
lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissi- 
pated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there 
was a camp of natives — ^he called them enemies ! — hidden 
out of sight somewhere. 

"We gave her her letters (I heard the men in that 

lonely ship were dying of fever at the rate of three 

4 a day) and went on. We called at some more places with 

farcical names, where the merry dance of death and 

trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an 



overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bor^ 
dered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried 
to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of 
death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose 
waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted man- 
groves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of 
an impotent despair. Nowhere did we stop long enough 
to get a particularized impression, but the general sense 
of vague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was 
iike a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for night- 

" It was upward of thirty days before I saw the mouth 
of the big river. We anchored off the seat of the gov- 
ernment. But my work would not begin till some two 
hundred miles farther on. So as soon as I could I made 
a start for a place thirty miles higher up. 

" I had my passage on a little sea-going steamer. Her 
captain was a Swede, and knowing me for a seaman, 
invited me on the bridge. He was a young man, lean, 
fair, and morose, with lanky hair and a shuffling gait. 
As we left the miserable little wharf, he tossed his head 
contemptuously at the shore. 'Been living there?' he 
asked. I said, ' Yes.' ' Fine lot these government chaps 
— ^are they not?' he went on, speaking English with 
great precision and considerable bitterness. * It is funny 
whatiwjme^people will do for a few francs a month. I 
wonder what becomes of that kind when it goes up coun- 
try ?• I said to hkoL I expected to see that soon. * So-o-o ! * 
he exclaimed. He shuffled athwart, keeping one eye 
ahead vigilantly. * Don't be too sure,' he continued. 

/ [ 71 3 









* The other day I took up a man who hanged himself 
on the road. He was a Swede, too.' ^ Hanged himself ! 
Why, in God*s name? * I cried. He kept on looking out 
watchfully. ' Who knows? The sun too much for him, 
or the country perhaps.* 

At last we opened a reach. A rocky cliiF appeared, 
mounds of tumed-up earth by the shore, houses on a 
hill, others, with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excava- 
tions, or hanging to the declivity. A continuous noisa 
of the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabited 
devastation. A lot of people, mostly black and naked, 
moved about like ants. A jetty projected into the river. 
A blinding sunlight drowned all this at times in a sudden 
recrudescence of glare. * There's your Company's sta- 
tion,' said the Swede, pointing to three wooden barrack- 
like structures on the rocky slope. * I will send your 
things up. Four boxes did you say? So. Farewell.' 

** I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, then 
found a path leading up the hill. It turned aside for 
the bowlders, and also for an undersized railway-truck 
lying there on its back with its wheels in tiie air. One 
was off. The thing looked as dead as the caij^cass of 
some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying ma- 
chinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of 
trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to 
stir feebly. I blinked, the path was steep. A horn tooted 
to the right, and I saw the black people run. A heavy 
and dull detonation shook the ground, a puff of smoke 
came out of the cliff, and that was all. No change ap- 
peared on the face of the rock. They were building a 



mhray. The cliff was not In the way or anything ; but 
this objectless blasting was all the work going on. 
^' A slight clinldng behind me made me turn my head. 
Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. 
They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets 
full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with 
their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their 
loins, and the short ends behind 'waggled to and fro like 
tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs 
were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on 
his neck, and all were connected together with a chain 
whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking. 
Another report from the cliff made me think suddenly 
of that ship of war I had seen firing into a continent. 
It was the same kind of ominous voice; but these men 
could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. 
They -were called criminals, and the outraged law, like 
the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mys* 
tery from the sea. All their meager breasts panted 
together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes 
Btared stonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, 
without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indif- 
ference of unhappy savages. Behind this raw matter 
one of the reclaimed, the product of the new forces at 
work, strolled despondently, carrying a rifle by its 
middle. He had a imiform jacket with one button off, 
and seeing a white man on the path, hoisted his weapon 
to his shoulder with alacrity. This was simple prudence, 
white men being so much alike at a distance that he could 
not tell who I might be. He was speedily reassured, and 

C 78 ] 


with a large, white, rascally grin, and a glance at his 
charge, seemed to take me into partnership in his exalted 
trust. After all, I also was a part of the great cause 
of these high and just proceedings. 

" Instead of going up, I turned and descended to the 
left. My idea was to let that chain-gang get out of 
sight before I climbed the hill. You know I am not par- 
ticularly tender ; IVe had to strike and to fend off. I Ve 
had to resist and to attack sometimes — ^that's only one 
way of resisting — ^without counting the exact cost, ac- 
cording to the demands of such sort of life as I had blun- 
dered into. Vve seen the devil of violence, and the devil 
of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the 
stars ! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that 
swayed and drove men — ^men, I tell you. But as I stood 
on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine 
of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, 
pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless 
folly. How insidious he could be, too, I W€W only to 
find out several months later and a thousand miles 
farther.* For a moment I stood appalled, as though by 
a warning. Finally I descended the hill, obliquely, to- 
wards the trees I had seen. 

^^ I avoided a vast artificial hole somebody had been 
digging on the slope, the purpose of which I found it 
impossible to divine. It wasn't a quarry or a sandpit, 
anyhow. It was just a hole. It might have been con- 
nected with the philanthropic desire of giving the crim- 
inals something to do. I don't know. Then I nearly 
fell into a very narrow ravine, almost no niore than a 



scar in the hillside. I discovered that a lot of imported 
drainage-pipes for the settlement had been tumbled in 
there. There wasn't one that was not broken. It was 
a wanton smash-up. At last I got under the trees. My 
purpose was to stroll into the shade for a moment; but 
no sooner within than it seemed to me I had stepped 
into a gloomy circle of some Inferno. The rapids were 
near, and ait uninterrupted, uniform, headlong, rushing 
noise filled the mournful stillness of the grove, where not 
a breath stirred, not a leaf moved, with a mysterious 
sound — ^as though the tearing pace of the launched earth 
had suddenly become audible. 

'' Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, 
leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half 
coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the 
attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another 
mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder 
of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The 
work ! And this was the place where some of the helpers 
had withdrawn to die. 

" They were dying slowly-7-it was very clear. They 
were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were 
nothing earthly now, — ^nothing but black shadows of 
disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish 
gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all 
the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial sur- 
roimdings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, be- 
came inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and 
rest. These moribund shapes were free as air — and nearly 
as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyeg 

[ 76 ] 


under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face 
near my hand. The black bones reclined at full length 
with one shoulder against the tree, and slowly the eye- 
lids rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me, enormous 
and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths 
of the orbs, which died out slowly. The man seemed 
young — ^almost a boy — ^but you know with them it's hard 
to tell. I found nothing else to do but to offer him one 
of my good Swede's ship's biscuits I had in my pocket. 
The fingers closed slowly on it and held — ^there was no 
other movement and no other glance. He had tied a bit 
of white worsted round his neck — ^Why? Where did he 
get it? Was it a badge — ^an ornament — a charm — a 
propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected 
with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this 
bit of white thread from beyond the seas. 

" Near the same tree two more bundles of acute angles 
sat with their legs drawn up. One, with his chin 
propped on his knees, stared at nothing, in an intoler- 
able and appalling manner: his brother phantom rested 
its forehead, as if overcome with a great weariness ; and 
all about others were scattered in every pose of contorted 
collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence. 
While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose 
to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards 
the river to drink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat 
up in the sunlight, crossing his shins in front of him, 
and after a time let his woolly head fall on his breast- 

" I didn't want any more loitering in the shade, and 

[T6 1 


I made haste towards the station* When near the build- 
ings I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance 
of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort 
of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a 
light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a cleaa necktie, and 
varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, 
under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. 
He was amazing, and had a penholder behind his ear. 
^^ I shook hands with this miracle, and I learned he was 
the Company's chief accountant, and that all the book- 
keeping was done at this station. He had come out for 
a moment, he said, ^ to get a breath of fresh air.' The 
expression sounded wonderfully odd, with its suggestion 
of sedentary desk-life. I wouldn't have mentioned the 
fellow to you at all, only it was from his lips that I 
first heard the name of the man who is so indissblubly 
connected with the memories of that time. Moreover, I 
respected the fellow. Yes; I respected his collars, his 
vast cufiTs, his brushed hair. His appearance was cer- 
tainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great 
demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. 
That's backbone. His stardhed collars and got-up shirt- 
fronts were achievements of character. He had been out 
nearly three years ; and, later on, I could not help ask- 
ing him how he managed to sport such linen. He had 
just the faintest blush, and said modestly, ^ I've been 
teaching one of the native women about the station. It 
was difiBieult. She had a distaste for the work/ Thus 
this man had verily accomplished something. And he 
was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order* 

[ 77 ] 



^ Everything else in the station was in a muddle, — 
heads, things, buildings. Strings of dusty niggers with 
splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manu- 
factured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire 
set into the depths of darkness, and in return came a 
precious trickle of ivory. 

" I had to wait in the station for ten days — an eternity. 
I lived in a hut in the yard, but to be out of the chaos 
I would sometimes get into the accountant's office. It 
was built of horizontal planks, and so beully put together 
that, as he bent over his high desk, he was barred from 
neck to heels with narrow strips of sunlight. There was 
no need to open the big shutter to see. It was hot 
there too; big flies buzzed fiendishly, and did not sting, 
but stabbed. I sat generally on the floor, while, of 
faultless appearance (and even slightly scented), perch- 
ing on a high stool, he wrote, he wrote. Sometimes he 
stood up for exercise. When a truckle-bed with a sick 
man (some invalided agent from up-country) was put in 
there, he exhibited a gentle annoyance. ^ The groans of 
this sick person,' he said, ^ distract my attention. And 
without that it is extremely difficult to guard against 
clerical errors in this climate.' 

" One day he remarked, without lifting his head, ' In 
the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.' On my 
asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class 
agent; and seeing my disappointment at this informa^ 
tion, he added slowly, laying down his pen, ^ He is a very 
rem€U*kable person.' Further questions elicited from him 
that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading 



post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, 
at * the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory 
as all the others put together. . . .' He began to 
write again. The sick man was too ill to groan. The 
flies buzzed in a great peace. 
" Suddenly there was a growing murmur of voices and 
a great tramping of feet. A caravan had come in. A 
violent babble of uncouth sounds burst out on the other 
side of the planks. All the carriers were speaking to- 
gether, and in the midst of the uproar the lamentable 
voice of the chief agent was heard * giving it up ' tear- 
fully for the twentieth time that day. . . . He rose 
slowly. ' What a frightful row,' he said. He crossed 
the room gently to look at the sick man, and returning, 
said to me, *He does not hear.' 'What! Dead?' I 
asked, startled. * No, not yet,' he answered, with great 
composure. Then, alluding with a toss of the head to 
the tumult in the station-yard, * When one has got to 
make correct entries, one comes to hate those savages — 
hate them to the death.' He remained thoughtful for a 
moment. * When you see Mr. Kurtz,' he went on, * tell 
him from me that everything here ' — ^he glanced at the 
desk — * is very satisfactory. I don't like to write to him 
—with those messengers of ours you never know who 
may get hold of your letter — at that Central Station.* 
He stared at me for a moment with his mild, bulging 
eyes. * Oh, he will go ffiu*, very far,' he began again. 
' He will be a somebody in the Administration before 
long. They, above — ^the Council in Europe, you know 
— ^mean him to be.' 

179 1 



** He turned to his work. The noise outside had oeasedf 
and presently in going out I stopped at the door. In 
the steady buzz of flies the homeward-bound agent was 
lying flushed and insensible; the other, bent over his 
books, was making correct entries of perfectly correct 
transactions; and fifty feet below the doorstep I could 
see the still tree-tops of the grove of death. 

*' Next day I left that station at last, with a caravan 
of sixty men, for a two-hundred-mile tramp. 

*^ No use telling you much about that. Paths, paths, 
everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading 
over the empty land, through long grass, through burnt 
grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up 
and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, 
a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had 
cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious 
niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons sud- 
denly took to traveling on the road between Deal and 
Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry 
heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage 
thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the 
dwellings were gone too. Still I passed through several 
abandoned villages. There's something pathetically 
childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with 
the stamp and shuffle of sixty pair of bare feet behind 
me, each pair under a 60-lb. load. Camp, cook, sleep, 
strike camp, march. New and then a carrier dead in 
harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with 
an empty water-gourd and his long staff lying by his 
fide. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on 



some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, 
swelling, a tremor vast, faint ; a sound weird, appealing, 
suggestive, and wild — ^and perhaps with as profound a 
meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. 
Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping 
on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, 
very hospitable and festive — ^not to say drunk. Was 
looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can't 
say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a 
middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, 
upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, 
may be considered ao a permanent improvement. I had 
a white companion too, not a bad chap, but rather too 
fleshy and with the exasperating habit of fainting on 
the hot hillsides, miles away from the least bit of shade 
and water. Annoying, you know, to hold your own coat 
like a parasol over a man's head while he is coming-to. 
I couldn't help asking him once what he meant by coming 
there at all. ' To make money, of course. What do 
you think? ' he said, scornfully. Then he got fever, and 
had to be carried in a hammock slung under a pole. As 
he weighed sixteen stone I had no end of rows with the 
carriers. They jibbed, ran away, sneaked off with their 
loads in the night — quite a mutiny. So, one evening, 
I made a speech in English with gestures, not one of 
which was lost to the sixty pairs of eyes before me, and 
the next morning I started the hammock off in front all 
right. An hour afterwards I came upon the whole con- 
cern wrecked in a bush — ^man, hammock, groans, blankets, 
horrors. The heavy pole had skinned his poor nose. He 



was very anxious for me to kill somebody, but there 
wasn't the shadow of a carrier near. I remembered the 
old doctor, — * It would be interesting for science to 
watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.' 
I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting. How- 
ever, all that is to no purpose. On the fifteenth day I 
came in sight of the big river again, and hobbled into 
the Central Station. It was on a back water surrounded 
by scrub and forest, with a pretty border of smelly mud 
on one side, and on the three others inclosed by a crazy 
fence of rushes. A neglected gap was all the gate it 
had, and the first glance at the place was enough to let 
you see the flabby devil was running that show. White 
men with long staves in their hands appeared languidly 
from amongst the buildings, strolling up to take a look 
at me, and then retired out of sight somewhere. One 
of them, a stout, excitable chap with black mustaches, 
informed me with great volubility and many digressions, 
as soon as I told him who I was, that my steamer was at 
the bottom of the river. I was thunderstruck. What, 
how, why? Oh, it was * all right.' The * manager him- 
self ' was there. All quite correct. * Everybody had 
behaved splendidly ! splendidly ! '— * you must,' he said 
in agitation, ^ go and see the general manager at once. 
He is wfidting ! ' 

** I did not see the real significance of that wreck at 
once. I fancy I see it now, but I am not sure — ^not at 
all. Certainly the afi^air was too stupid — ^when I think 
of it — ^to be altogether natural. Still. . , . But at the 
moment it presented itself simply as a confounded nui- 

[88 ] 


sasoe. The steamer was sunk. They had started two 
days before in a sudden hurry up the river with the 
manager on board, in charge of some volunteer skipper, 
and before they had been out three hours they tore the 
bottom out of her on stones, and she sank near the south 
bank. I asked myself what I was to do there, now my 
boat was lost. As a matter of fact, I had plenty to do 
in fishing my command out of the river. I had to set 
about it the very next day. That, and the repairs when 
I brought the pieces to the station, took some months. 
" My first interview with the manager was curious. He 
did not ask me to sit down after my twenty-mile walk 
that morning. He was commonplace in complexion, in 
feature, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle 
size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, 
were perhaps remarkably cold, and he certainly could 
make his glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy as 
an ax. But even at these times the rest of his person 
seemed to disclaim the intention. Otherwise there was 
only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, some- 
thing stealthy — a smile — not a smile — ^I remember it, but 
I can't explain. It was unconscious, this smile was, 
though just after he had said something it got intensified 
for em instant. It came at the end of his speeches like 
a seal applied on the words to make the meaning of the 
commonest phrase appear absolutely inscrutable. He 
was a common trader, from his youth up employed in 
these parts — ^nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he in- 
spired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He in- 
spired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a 



definite mistrusW-just uneasiness*— nothing more. You 
have no idea how effective such a . • • a • • . fac- 
ulty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for 
initiative, or for order even. That was evident in such 
things as the deplorable state of the station. He had 
no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come 
to him — ^why? Perhaps because he was never ill , . . 
He had served three tdfms of three years out there . . . 
Because triumphant health in the general rout of con- 
stitutions is a kind of power in itself. When he went 
home on leave he rioted on a large scale — ^pompously. 
Jack ashore — ^with a difference — ^in externals only. This 
one could gather from his casual talk. He originated 
nothing, he could keep the routine going^ — ^that's all. 
But he was great. He was great by this little thing that 
it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. 
He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was 
nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause 
— for out there there were no external checks. Once 
when various tropical diseases had laid low almost every 
* agent ' in the station, he was heard to say, * Men who 
come out here should have no entrails.' He sealed the 
utterance with that smile of his, as though it had been 
a door opening into a darkness he had in his keeping. 
You fancied you had seen things — ^but the seal was on. 
When annoyed at meal-times by the constant quarrels 
of the white men about precedence, he ordered an im- 
mense round table to be made, for which a special house 
had to be built. This was the station's mess-room. Where 
he sat was the first place — ^the rest were nowhere. One 

[84 J 


felt this to be his unalterable conviction. He was neither 
civil nor uncivil. He was quiet. He allowed his * boy ' 
— ^an overfed young negro from the coast — to treat the 
white men, under his very eyes, with provoking insolence. 
'^ He began to speak as soon as he saw me. I had 
been very long on the road. He could not wait. Had 
to start without me. The up-riyer stations had to be 
relieved. There had been so many delays already that 
he did not know who was dead and who was alive, and 
how they got on — and so on, and so on. He paid no 
attention to my explanations, and, playing with a stick 
of sealing-wax, repeated several times that the situation 
was * very grave, very grave.' There were rimiors that 
a very important station was in jeopardy, and its chief, 
Mr. Kurtz, was ill. Hoped it was not true. Mr. Kurtz 
was . ► . I felt weary and irritable. Hang Kurtz, I 
thought. I interrupted him by saying I had heard of 
Mr. Kurtz on the coast. * Ah ! So they talk of him 
down there,' he murmured to himself. Then he began 
again, assuring me Mr. Kurtz was the best agent he 
had, an exceptional man, of the greatest importance to 
the Company; therefore I could understand his anxiety. 
He w€is, he said, ' very, very uneasy.' Certainly he 
fidgeted on his chair a good deal, exclaimed, ' Ah, Mr. 
Kurtz ! ' broke the stick of sealing-wax and seemed dumb- 
founded by the accident. Next thing he wanted to know 
* how long it would take to ' . . .1 interrupted him 
again. Being hungry, you know, and kept on my feet 
too, I was getting savage. * How could I tell,' I said. 
*I hadn't even seen the wreck yet — some months, no 



doubt.' All this talk seemed to me so futile. * Som« 
months,' he said. * Well, let us say three months before 
we can make a start. Yes. That ought to do the affair.' 
I flung out of his hut (he lived all alone in a clay hut 
with a sort of veranda) muttering to myself my opinion 
of him. He was a chattering idiot. Afterwards I took 
it back when it was borne in upon me startlingly with 
what extreme nicety he had estimated the time requisite 
for the * affair.' 

" I went to work the next dAy, turning, so to speak, 
my back on that station. In that way only it seemed 
to me I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of 
life. Still, one must look about sometimes; and then I 
saw this station, these men strolling aimlessly about in 
the sunshine of the yard. I asked myself sometimes what 
it all meant. They wandered here and there with their 
absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless 
pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word 
* ivory ' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You 
would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile 
rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some 
corpse. By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal 
in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surround- 
ing this cleared speck on the earth struck me as some- 
thing great and invincible, like evU or truth, waiting 
patiently for the passing away of this fantastic in- 

" Oh, these months ! Well, never mind. Various things 
happened. One evening a grass shed full of calico, cotton 
prints, beads, and I don't know what else, biurst into a 

[86 1 


blaze so suddenly that you would have thought the earth 
had opened to let an avenging fire consume all that trash. 
I was smoking my pipe quietly by my dismantled steamer, 
and saw them all cutting capers in the light, with their 
arn^s lifted high, when the stout man with mustaches 
came tearing down to the river, a tin pail in his hand, 
assurei!^ me that everybody was * behaving splendidly, 
splendicH^,' dipped about a quart of water and tore back 
again. I Noticed there was a hole in the bottom of his 

"I strolled up. There was no hurry. You see the 
thing had gone off like a box of matches. It had been 
hopeless from the very first. The flame had leaped high, 
driven everybody back, lighted up everything — and col- 
lapsed. The shed was already a heap of embers glowing 
fiercely. A nigger w€is being beaten near by. They 
said he had caused the fire in some way; be that as it 
may, he was screeching most horribly. I saw him, later 
on, for several days, sitting in a bit of shade looking 
very sick and trying to recover himself: afterwards he 
arose and went out — and the wilderness without a sound 
took him into its bosom again. As I approached the 
glow from the dark I found myself at the back of two 
men, talking. I heard the name of Kurtz pronounced, 
then the words, * take advantage of this unfortunate ac- 
cident.' One of the men was the manager. I wished 
him a good evening. * Did you ever see anything like 
it — eh? it is incredible,' he said, and walked off. The 
other man remained. He was a first-class agent, young, 
gentlemanly^ a bit reserved, with a forked little beard 



and a hooked nose. He was stand-offish with the other 
agents, and they on their side said he was the manager's 
spy upon them. As to me, I had hardly ever spoken to 
him before. We got into talk, and by-and-by we strolled 
away from the hissing ruins. Then he asked me to his 
room, which was in the main building of the station. 
He struck a match, and I perceived that this young 
aristocrat had not only a silver-nlounted dressing-case 
but also a whole candle all to himself. Just at that time 
the manager was the only man supposed to have any 
right to candles. Native mats covered the clay walls; 
a collection of spears, assegais, shields, knives was hung 
up in trophies. The business intrusted to this fellow 
was the making of bricks— so I had been informed; but 
there wasn't a fragment of a brick anywhere in the sta- 
tion, and he had been there more than a year — ^waiting. 
It seems he could not make bricks without something, I 
don't know what — straw maybe. Anyways, it could not 
be found there, and as it was not likely to be sent from 
Europe, it did not appear clear to me what he was wait- 
ing for. An act of special creation perhaps. However, 
they were all waiting — ^all the sixteen or twenty pilgrims 
of them — for something ; and upon my word it did not 
seem an uncongenial occupation, from the way they took 
it, though the only thing that ever came to them was 
disease — ^as far as I could see. They beguiled the time 
by backbiting and intriguing against each other in a 
foolish kind of way. There was an air of plotting about 
that station, but nothing came of it, of course. It was 
as unreal as everything else — as the philanthropic pre- 

t 88 1 


tense of the whole concern, as their talk, as their gov* 
eminent, as their show of work. The only real feeling 
was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where 
ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages. 
They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only 
on that account, — ^but as to effectually lifting a little 
finger — oh, no. By heavens! there is something after 
all in the world allowing one man to steal a horse while 
another must not look at a halter. Steal a horse straight 
out. Very well. He has done it. Perhaps he can ride. 
But there is a way of looking at a hfidter that would 
provoke the most charitable of saints into a kick. 

*^ I had no idea why he wanted to be sociable, but as 
we chatted in there it suddenly occurred to me the fel- 
low was trying to get at something — ^in fact, pumping 
me. He alluded constantly to Europe, to the people I 
was supposed to know there — ^putting leading questions 
as to my acquaintances in the sepulchral city, and so on. 
His little eyes glittered like mica discs — ^with curiosity, 
— ^though he tried to keep up a bit of superciliousness. 
At first I was astonished, but very soon I became awfully 
curious to see what he would find out from me. I couldn't 
possibly imagine what I had in me to make it worth 
his while. It was very pretty to see how he baffled him- 
self, for in truth my body was full of chills, and my 
head had nothing in it but that wretched steamboat busi- 
ness. It was evident he took me for a perfectly shame- 
less prevaricator. At last he got angry, and, to conceal 
a movement of furious annoyance, he yawned. I rose. 
Then I noticed' a small sketch in oils, on a pantl« repnn 


m ■<» 


senting a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a 
lighted torch. The background was somber — almost 
black. The movement of the woman was stately, and 
the effect of the torchlight on the face was sinister. 

" It arrested me, and he stood by civilly, holding an empty 
half -pint champagne bottle (medical comforts) with the 
candle stuck in it. To my question he said Mr. Kurtz 
had painted this — in this very station more thati a year 
ago — ^while waiting for means to go to his trading- post. 

* Tell me, pray,' said I, * who is this Mr. Kurtz.?' 

" * The chief of the Inner Station,' he answered in a 
short tone, looking away. * Much obliged,' I said, laugh- 
ing. * And you are the brickmaker of the Central Sta- 
tion. Everyone knows that.' He was silent for a while. 

* He is a prodigy,' he said at last. * He is an emissary of 
pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what 
else. We want,' he began to declaim suddenly, * for 
the guidance of the cause intrusted to us by Europe, so 
to speak, higher intelligence, wide sympathies, a single- 
ness of purpose.' * Who says that? ' I asked. * Lots of 
them,' he replied. * Some even write that ; and so he 
comes here, a special being, as you ought to know.' * Why 
ought I to know? ' I interrupted, really surprised. He 
paid no attention. * Yes. To-day he is chief of the 
best station, next year he will be assistant-manager, two 
years more and . . . but I dare say you know what he 
will be in two years' time. You are of the new gang — 
the gang of virtue. The same people who sent him 
specially also recommended you. Oh, don't say no. I've 
my own eyes to trust.' Light dawned upon me. My 


dear aunt's influential acquaintances were producing an 
unexpected effect upon that young man. I nearly burst 
into a laugh. ^ Do you read the Company's confidential 
correspondence? ' I asked. He hadn't a word to say. It 
was great fun. * When Mr. Kurtz,' I continued severely? 

* is General Manager, you won't have the opportunity.' 
" He blew the candle out suddenly, and we went out- 
side. The moon had risen. Black figures strolled about 
listlessly, pouring water on the glow, whence proceeded 
a sound of hissing ; steam ascended in the moonlight, the 
beaten nigger groaned somewhere. * What a row the 
brute makes ! ' said the indefatigable man with the mus- 
taches, appearing near us. * Serve him right. Trans- 
gression — ^punishment — bang ! Pitiless, pitiless. That's 
the only way. This will prevent all conflagrations for 
the future. I was just telling the manager . . . ' He 
noticed my companion, and became crestfallen all at once. 

• Not in bed yet,' he said, with a kind of servile hearti- 
ness ; * it's so natural. Ha ! Danger-agitation.' He 
vanished. I went on to the river-side, and the other f ol- 
V)wed me. I heard a scathing murmur at my ear, * Heap 

^; muffs— go to.' The pilgrims could be seen in knots 
gesticulating, discussing. Several had still their staves 
in their hands. I verily believe they took these sticks to 
bed with them. Beyond the fence the forest stood up 
spectrally in the moonlight, and through the dim stir, 
through the faint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, 
the silence of the land went home to one's very heart, — 
its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its con- 
cealed life. The hurt nigger moaned feebly somewhere 



near by, and then fetched a deep sigh that made me 
mend my pace away from there. I felt a hand intro- 
ducing itself under my arm. * My dear sir,' said the 
fellow, ' I don't want to be misunderstood, and especially 
by you, who will see Mr. Kurtz long before I can have 
that pleasure. I wouldn't like him to get a false idea 
of my disposition. . . . ' 

" I let him run on, this papier-mach^ Mephistopheles, 
and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my fore- 
finger through him, and would find nothing inside but 
a little loose dirt, maybe. He, don't you see, had been 
planning to be assistant-manager by-and-by under the 
present man, and I could see that the coming of that 
Kurtz had upset them both not a little. He talked pre- 
cipitately, and I did not try to stop him. I had my 
shoulders against the wreck of my steamer, hauled up on 
the slope like a carcass of some big river animal. The 
smell of mud, of primeval mud, by Jove! was in my 
nostrils, the high stillness of primeval forest was before 
my eyes; there were shiny patches on the black creek. 
The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of 
silver — over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the 
wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall 
of a temple, over the great river I could see through a 
somber gap glittering, glittering, as it flowed broadly 
by without a murmur. All this was great, expectant, 
mute, while the man jabbered about himself. I won- 
dered whether the stillness on the face of the immensity 
looking at us two were meant as an appeal or as a 
menace. What were we who had strayed in here? Could 

[ 92 ] 


we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us? I 
felt how big, how confoundedly big, was that thing that 
couldn't talk, and perhaps was deaf as well. What was 
in there? I could see a little ivory coming out from 
there, and I had heard Mr. Kurtz was in there. I had 
heard enough about it too — God knows! Yet somehow 
it didn't bring any image with it — ^no more than if I 
had been told an angel or a fiend was in there. I be- 
lieved it in the same way one of you might believe there 
are inhabitants in the planet Mars. I knew once a Scotch 
sailmaker who was certain, dead sure, there were people 
in Mars. If you asked him for some idea how they 
looked and behaved, he would get shy and mutter some- 
thing aboiit ^walking on all-fours.' If you as much 
as smiled, he would — ^though a man of sixty — offer to 
fight you. I would not have gone so far as to fight 
for Kurtz, but I went for him near enough to a lie. You 
know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because 
I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because 
it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of 
mortality in lies, — ^which is exactly what I hate and 
detest in the world — ^what I want to forget. It makes 
me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would 
do. Temperament, I suppose. Well, I went near enough 
to it by letting the young fool there believe anything 
he liked to imagine as to my influence in Europe. I 
became in an instant as much of a pretense as the rest 
of the bewitched pilgrims. This simply because I had 
a notion it somehow would be of help to that Kurtz whom 
at the time I did not see — ^you understand. He was just 



a word for me. I did not see the man in the name any 
more than you do. Do you see him? Do you 
see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me 
I am trying to tell you a dream — ^making a vain at- 
tempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the 
dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, sur- 
prise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, 
that notion of being captured by the incredible which ii 
of the very essence of dreams. ..." 

He was silent for a while. 

"... No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey 
the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence, 
— ^that which makes its truth, its meaning — ^its subtle and 
penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, aft we 
dream — ^alone. ..." 

He paused again as if reflecting, then added — 

" Of course in this you fellows see more than I could 
then. You see me, whom you know. ..." 

It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could 
hardly see one another. For a long time already he, 
sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There 
was not a word from anybody. The others might have 
been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on 
the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give 
me the clew to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narra- 
tive that seemed to shape itself without human lips in 
the heavy night-air of the river. 

"... Yes — I let him run on," Marlow began again, 
'* and think what he pleased about the powers that were 
behind me. I did! And there was nothing behind me I 



There was nothing but that wretched, old, mangled 
steamboat I was leaning against, while he talked fluently 
about * the necessity for every man to get on.' ' And 
when one comes out here, you conceive, it is not to gaze 
at the moon,' Mr. Kurtz was a * universal genius,' but 
even a genius would find it easier to work with ' adequate 
tools — intelligent men.' He did not make bricks — ^why, 
there was a physical impossibility in the way — ^as I was 
Well aware ; and if he did secretarial work for the man- 
ager, it was because ^ no sensible man rejects wantonly 
the confidence of his superiors.' Did I see it? I saw it. 
What more did I want.?^ What I really wanted was 
rivets, by heaven ! Rivets. To get on with the work — ^to 
stop the hole. Rivets I wanted. There were cases of 
them down at the coast — cases — spiled up — ^burst — split ! 
You kicked a loose rivet at every second step in that 
station yard on the hillside. Rivets had rolled into the 
grove of death. You could fill your pockets with rivets 
for the trouble of stooping down — ^and there wasn't one 
rivet to be found where it was wanted. We had plates 
that would do, but nothing to fasten them with. And 
every week the messenger, a lone negro, letter-bag on 
shoulder and staff in hand, left our station for the coast. 
And several times a week a coast caravan came in with 
trade goods, — ghastly glazed calico that made you 
shudder only to look at it, glass beads value about a 
penny a quart, confounded spotted cotton handkerchiefs. 
And no rivets. Three carriers could have brought all 
that was wanted to set that steamboat afloat. 
" He was becoming confidential now, but I fancy my 



unresponsive attitude must have exasperated him at lastf 
for he judged it necessary to inform me he feared neither 
Grod nor devil, let alone any mere man. I said I could 
see that very well) but what I wanted was a certain 
quantity of rivets — and rivets were what really Mr. 
Kurtz wanted, if he had only known it. Now letters 
went to the coast evCTy week. ... * My dear sir,' he 
cried, * I write from dictation.' I demanded rivets. There 
was a way — ^for an intelligent man. He changed his 
manner; became very cold, and suddenly began to talk 
about a hippopotamus; wondered whether sleeping on 
board the steamer (I stuck to my salvage night and 
day) I wasn't disturbed. There was an old hippo that 
had the bad habit of getting out on the bank and roam- 
ing at night over the station grounds. The pilgrims 
used to turn out in a body and empty every rifle they 
could lay hands on at him. Some even had sat up o' 
nights for him. All this energy was wasted, though, 
* That animal has a charmed life,' he said ; * but you can 
say this only of brutes in this country. No man — ^you 
apprehend me? — no man here bears a charmed life.' He 
stood there for a moment in the moonlight with his deli- 
cate hooked nose set a. little askew, and his mica eyes 
glittering without a wink, then, with a curt Good night, 
he strode off. I could see he was disturbed and consid- 
erably puzzled, which made me feel more hopeful than 
I had been for days. It was a great comfort to turn 
from that chap to my influential friend, the battered, 
twisted, ruined, tin-pot steamboat. I clambered on 
board* She rang under my feet like an empty Huntley 



Ik Palmer biscuit-tin kicked along a gutter; she was 
jiothing so solid in make, and rather less pretty in shape, 
but I had expended enough hard work on her to make 
me love her. No influential friend would have served 
me better. She had given me a chance to come out a bit 
— ^to find out what I could do. No, I don't like work. 
I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things 
that can be done. I don't like work — no man does 
— ^but I like what is in the work, — ^the chance to find 
yourself. Your own reality — for yourself, not for others 
— ^what no other man can ever know- They can only 
/ see the mere show, and never can tell what it really 

" I was not surprised to see somebody sitting aft, on 
the deck, with his legs dangling over the mud. You see 
I rather chummed with the few mechanics there were in 
that station, whom the other pilgrims naturally despised 
' — on account of their imperfect manners, I suppose. 
This was the foreman — a boiler-maker by trade — a good 
worker. He was a lank, bony, yeUow-faced man, with 
big intense eyes. His aspect was worried, and his head 
was as bald as the palm of my hand; but his hair in 
falling seemed to have stuck to his chin, and had pros- 
pered in the new locality, for his beard hung down to 
his waist. He was a widower with six young children 
(he had left them in charge of a sister of his to come 
out there), and the passion of his life was pigeon-flying. 
He was an enthusiast and a connoisseur. He would rave 
about pigeons. After work hours he used sometimes to 
come over from bis hut for a talk about his children and 

[97 ] 


his pigeons ; at work, when he had to crawl in the mud 
under the bottom of the steamboat, he would tie up that 
beard of his in a kind of white serviette he brought for 
the purpose. It had loops to go over his ears. In the 
evening he could be seen squatted on the bank rinsing 
that wrapper in the creek with great care, then spreading 
it solemnly on a bush to dry. 

^^ I slapped him on the back and shouted ^ We shall have 
rivets ! ' He scrambled to his feet exclaiming * No ! 
Rivets ! ' as though he couldn't believe his ears. Then in 
a low voice, * You . . . eh? ' I don't know why we 
behaved Hke lunatics. I put my finger to the side of 
my nose and nodded mysteriously. * Good for you ! ' he 
cried, snapped his fingers above his head, lifting one 
foot. I tried a jig. We capered on the iron deck. A 
frightful clatter came out of that hulk, and the virgin 
forest on the other bank of the creek sent it back in a 
thundering roll upon the sleeping station. It must have 
made some of the pilgrims sit up in their hovels. A 
dark figure obscured the lighted doorway of the man- 
ager's hut, vanished, then, a second or so after, the 
doorway itself vanished too. We stopped, and the silence 
driven away by the stamping of our feet flowed back 
again from the recesses of the land. The great wall of 
vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass of trunks, 
branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the 
moonlight, was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, 
a rolling wave of plants, piled up, crested, ready to 
topple over the crieek, to sweep every little man of us 
out of his little existence. And it moved not. A dead- 



ened burst of mighty splashes and snorts reached us 
from afar, as though an ichthyosaurus had been taking 
a bath of glitter in the great river. * After all,' said the 
boiler-maker in a reasonable tone, * why shouldn't we get 
the rivets? ' Why not, indeed! I did not know of any 
reason why we shouldn't. * They'll come in three weeks,* 
I said, confidently. 

" But they didn't. Instead of rivets there came an 
invasion, an infliction, a visitation. It came in sections 
during the next three weeks, each section headed by a 
donkey carrying a white man in new clothes and tan 
shoes, bowing from that elevation right and left to the 
impressed pilgrims. A quarrelsome band of footsore 
sulky niggers trod on the heels of the donkey; a lot of 
tents, camp-stools, tin boxes, white cases, brown bales 
would be shot down in the courtyard, and the air of 
mystery would deepen a little over the muddle of the 
station. Five such installments came, with their ab£>urd 
air of disorderly flight with the loot of innumerable out- 
fit shops and provision stores, that, one would think, they 
were lugging, after a raid, into the wilderness for equit- 
able division. It was an inextricable mess of things 
decent in themselves but that human folly made look 
like the spoils of thieving. 

"This devoted band called itself the Eldorado Ex- 
ploring Expedition, and I believe they were sworn to 
secrecy. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid 
buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy 
without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was 
not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the 



whole batch of theuif and they did not eeem aware these 
things are wanted for the work of the world. To tear 
treasure out of the bowels of the. land was their desire, 
with no more moral purpose at the\back of it than there 
is in burglars breaking into a safe. Who paid the ex- 
penses of th^^ noble enterprise I don't know; but the 
uncle of our manager was leader of that lot. 

" In exterior he resembled a butcher in a poor neigh- 
borhood, and'his eyes had a look of sleepy cunning. He 
carried his fat paunch with ostentation on his short legs, 
and during the time his gang infested the station spoke 
to no one but his nephew. You could see these two roam- 
ing about all day long with their heads close together 
in an everlasting confab. 

« I had given up worrying myself about the rivets. 
One's capacity for that kind of folly is more limited 
than you would suppose. I said Hang ! — and let things 
slide. I had plenty of time for meditation, and now 
and then I would give some thought to Kurtz. I wasn't 
very interested in him. No. Still, I was curious to see 
whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral 
ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all, and 
how he would set about his work when there." 


" One evening as I was lying flat on the deck of my 
steamboat, I heard voices approaching — ^and there were 
the nephew and the ancle strolling along the bank. I 
laid my head on my arm again, and had nearly lost 




myself in a doze, when somebody said in my ear, as it 
were: * I am as harmless as a little child, but I don't like 
to be dictated to. Am I the manager — or am I not? I 
was ordered to send him there. It's incredible.' . . . 
I became aware that the two were standing on the shore 
alongside the forepart of the steamboat, just below my 
head. I did not move ; it did not occur to me to move : I 
was sleepy. * It is unpleasant,' grunted the uncle. ' He 
has asked the Administration to be sent there,' said the 
other, ^ with the idea of showing what he could do ; and 
I was instructed accordingly. Look at the influence that 
man must have. Is it not frightful? ' They both agreed 
it was frightful, then made several bizarre remarks: 

^ * Make rain an^ fine weather — one man — the Council — 
by the nose '—bits of absurd sentences that got the 
better of my drowsiness, so that I had pretty near the 
whole of my wits about me when the uncle said, * The 
climate may do away with this difficulty for you. Is he 
alone there?' 'Yes,' answered the manager; *he sent 
his assistant down the river with a note to me in these 

^ terms : " Clear this poor devil out of the country, and 
don't bother sending more of that sort. I had rather 
be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of 
with me." It was more than a year ago. Can you 
imagine such impudence! ' * Anything since then?' 

k asked the other, hoarsely. * Ivory,' jerked the nephew; 
*lots of it — ^prime sort — ^lots — ^most annoying, from 
him.' *And with that?' questioned the heavy rumble. 

* * Invoice,' was the reply fired out, so to speak. Then 
silence. They had been talking about Kurtz. 

[ 101 ] 


** I was broad awake by this time, but, lying perfectly 
at ease, remained still, having no inducement to change 
my position. * How did that ivory come all this way? ' 
growled the elder man, wha seemed very vexed. The 
other explained that it had come with a fleet of canoes in 
charge of an English half-caste clerk Kurtz had with 
him ; that Kurtz had apparently intended to return him- 
self, the station being by that time bare of goods and 
stores, but after coming three hundred miles, had sud- 
denly decided to go back, which he started to do alone 
in a small dug-out with four paddlers, leaving the half- 
caste to continue down the river with the ivory. The two 
fellows there seemed astounded at anybody attempting 
such a thing. They were at a loss for an adequate mo- 
tive. As to me, I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time. 
It was a distinct glimpse: the dug-out, four paddling 
savages, and the lone white man turning his back sud- 
denly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of 
home — perhaps; setting his face towards the depths of 
the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station. 
I did not know the motive. Perhaps he was just simply 
a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake. His 
name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. 
He was * that man.' The half-caste, who, as far as I 
could see, had conducted a difficult trip with great pru- 
dence and pluck, was invariably alluded to as ' that 
scoundrel.' The * scoundrel ' had reported that the 
* man ' had been very ill — ^had recovered imperfectly. 
. . . The two below me moved away then a few paces, 
and strolled back and forth at some little distance. I 

t 102 ] 


heard : ^ Military post — doctor — ^two hundred milefih-^ 
quite alone now — ^unavoidable delays — nine months— rno 
news — strange riunors.' They approached again, just 
as the manager was saying, * No one, as far as I know, 
unless a species of wandering trader — a pestilential fel- 
low, snapping ivory from the natives.' Who was it they 
were talking about now? I gathered in snatches that 
this was some man supposed to be in Kurtz's district, and 
of whom the manager did not approve. * We will not be 
free from imf air competition till one of these fellows is 
hanged for an example,' he said. * Certainly,' grunted 
the other; * get him hanged! Why not? Anything — 
anything can be done in this country. That's what I 
say; nobody here, you understand, here^ can endanger 
your position. And why? You stand the climate — ^you 
outlast them all. The danger is in Europe; but there 

before I left I took care to * They moved off and 

whispered, then their voices rose again. * The extraor- 
dinary series of delays is not my fault. I did my 
possible.' The fat man sighed, * Very sad.' * And the 
pestiferous absurdity of his talk,' continued the other; 
* he bothered me enough when he was here. " Each 
station should be like a beacon on the road towards better 
things, a center for trade of course, but also for human- 
izing, improving, instructing." Conceive you — ^that ass ! 

And he wants to be manager! No, it's ' Here he 

got choked by excessive indignation, and I lifted my 
head the least bit. I was surprised to see how near they 
were — aright under me. I could have spat upon their 
hats. They were looking on the ground, absorbed in 

£ 103 j 


thought. The manager was switching his leg with a 
slender twig : his sagacious relative lifted his head. ' You 
have been well since you came out this time? ' he asked. 
The other gave a start, ^ Who ? I ? Oh ! Like a charm 
— ^like a charm. But the rest — oh, my goodness! All 
sick. They die so quick, too, that I haven't the time 
to send them out of the country — ^it's incredible ! ' ' H'm. 
Just so,' grunted the uncle. * Ah ! my boy, trust to this 
— ^I say, trust to this.' I saw him extend his short flipper 
of an arm for a gesture that took in the forest, the 
creek, the mud, the river, — seemed to beckon with a dis* 
honoring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a 
treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden 
evil, to the profound darkness of its heart. It was so 
startling that I leaped to my feet and looked back at 
the edge of the forest, as though I had expected an 
answer of some sort to that black display of confidence. 
You know the foolish notions that come to one some- 
times. The high stillness confronted these two figures 
with its ominous patience, waiting for the passing away 
of a fantastic invasion. 

" They swore aloud together — out of sheer fright, I 
believe — ^then pretending not to know anything of ray 
existence, turned back to the station. The sun was low* 
and leaning forward side by side, they seemed to be 
tugging painfully uphill their two ridiculous shadows 
of unequal length, that trailed behind them slowly over 
the tall grass without bending a single blade. 

" In a few days the Eldorado Expedition went into the 
patient wilderness, that closed upon it as the sea closas 

I IM 1 


over a diver. Long afterwards the news came that all 
the donkeys were dead. I know nothing as to the fate of 
the less valuable animals. They, no doubt, like the rest 
of us, found what they deserved. I did not inquire. I 
was then rather excited at the prospect of meeting Kurtz 
very soon. When I say very soon I mean it compara- 
tively. It was just two months from the day we left 
the creek when we came to the bank below Kurtz's sta- 

"Groing up that river was like traveling back to the 
earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted 
on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty 
stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air 
was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy 
in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the 
waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of over- 
shadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and 
alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broaden- 
ing waters flowed tiirough a mob of wooded islands ; you 
lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and 
butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the 
channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut 
off for ever from everything you had known once — some- 
where — ^far away — in another existence perhaps. There 
were moments when one's past came back to one, as it 
will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare 
to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful 
and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the 
overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, 
and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did 

[ 106] 


not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of 
an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable inten- 
tion. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect. I got 
used to it afterwards ; I did not see it any more ; I had 
no time. I had to keep guessing at the channel ; I had 
to discern, mostly by inspiration, the signs of hidden 
banks; I watched for sunken stones; I was learning to 
clap my teeth smartly before my heart flew out, when 
I shaved by a fluke some infernal sly old snag that would 
have ripped the life out of the tin-pot steamboat and 
drowned all the pilgrims; I had to keep a look-out for 
the signs of dead wood we could cut up in the night for 
next day's steaming. When you have to attend to 
things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the sur- 
face, the reality — the reality, I tell you — fades. The 
inner truth is hidden — ^luckily, luckily. But I felt it 
all the same ; I felt often its mysterious stillness watching 
me at my monkey tricks, just as it watches you fellows 
performing on your respective tight-ropes for — what is 
it? half-a-crown a tumble " 

" Try to be civil, Marlow," growled a voice, and I 
knew there was at least one listener awake besides my- 

" I beg your pardon. I forgot the heartache which 
makes up the rest of the price. And indeed what does 
the price matter, if the trick be well done? You do 
your tricks very well. And I didn't do badly either, 
since I managed not to sink that steamboat on my first 
trip. It's a wonder to me yet. Imagine a blindfolded 
man set to drive a van over a bad road. I sweated and 

1106 1 


shivered over that business considerably, I can tell you. 
After all, for a seaman, to scrape the bottom of the thing 
that's supposed to float all the time under his care is 
the unpardonable sin. No one may know of it, but you 
never forget the thump — eh? A blow on the very heart. 
You remember it, you dream of it, you wake up at night 
and think of it — ^years after — and go hot and cold all 
over. I don't pretend to say that steamboat floated all 
the time. More than once she had to wade for a bit, 
with twenty cannibals splashing around and pushing. 
We had enlisted some of these chaps on the way for a 
crew. Fine fellows — cannibals — in their place. They 
were men one could work with, and I am grateful to 
^ them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before 
I my face: they had brought along a provision of hippo^ 
meat which went rotten, and made the mystery of the 
wilderness stink in my nostrils. Phoo ! I can sniff it 
now. I had the manager on board and three or four 
pilgrims with their staves — all complete. Sometimes we 
came upon a station close by the bank, clinging to the 
) skirts of the unknown, and the white men rushing out 
of a tumble-down hovel, with great gestures of joy and 
surprise and welcome, seemed very strange, — ^had the ap- 
pearance of being held there captive by a spell. The word 
ivory woidd ring in the air for a while — ^and on we went 
again into the silence, along empty reaches, round the 
still bends, between the high walls of our winding way, 
reverberating in hollow claps the ponderous beat of the 
stem-wheel. Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, 
immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging 




the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed 
steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor 
of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very 
lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing that feel- 
ing. After all, if you were small, the grimy beetle 
crawled on — ^which was just what you wanted it to do. 
Where the pilgrims imagined it crawled to I don't know. 
To some place where they expected to get something, I 
bet ! For me it crawled toward Kurtz — exclusively ; but 
when the steam-pipes started leaking we crawled very 
slow. The reaches opened before us and closed behind, 
as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water 
to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper 
and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet 
there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the 
curtain of trees would run up the river and remain 
sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our 
heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meant war, 
peace, or prayer we could not tell. The dawns were 
heralded by the descent of a chill stiUness; the wood- 
cutters slept, their fires burned low; the snapping of 
a twig would make you start. We were wanderers on 
a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect 
of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves 
the first of men taking possession of an accursed in* 
heritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish 
and of excessive toil. But suddenly, as we struggled 
round a bend, there would be a glimpse of rush walls, 
of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of black 
limbs, a mast of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of 

t 108] 


bodies swaying, of eyes roUingt under the droop of heavy 
and motionless foliage. The steamer toiled along slowly 
on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The 
prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, wel- 
coming us-— who could tell? We were cut off from the 
comprehension of our surroundings ; we glided past like 
phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men 
would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. 
We could not understand, because w^e were too far and 
could not remember, because we were traveling in the 
night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving 
hardly a sign — and no memories. 

** The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to 
look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but 
there — ^there you could look at a thing monstrous and 

free. It was unearthly, and the men were No, they 

were not inhiunan. Well, you know, that was the worst 
of it^ — ^this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It 
would come slowly to one. They howled, and leaped, and 
spun, and made horrid faces ; but what thrilled you was 
just the thought of their humanity — ^like yours — ^the 
thought of your remote kinship with this wild and pas- 
sionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but 
if you were man enough you would admit to yourself 
that there was in you just the faintest trace of a re- 
sponse to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim 
suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you — 
you so remote from the night of first ages — could com- 
prehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable 
of anything — because everything is in it, all the past 

[ io» \ 


us well as all the future. What was there after all? 
Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage — ^who can tell? 
■ — ^but truth — ^truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let 
the fool gape and shudder — ^the man knows, and can 
look on without a wink. But he must at least be as 
much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet 
that truth with his own true stuff — ^with his own inborn 
strength. Principles? Principles won't do. Acquisi- 
tions, clothes, pretty rags — ^rags that would fly off at 
tiie first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. 
An appeal to me in this fiendish row — ^is there? Very 
well; I hear; I admit, but I have a voice too, and for 
good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced. 
Of course, a fool, what with sheer fright and fine senti- 
ments, is always safe. Who's that grunting? You 
wonder I didn't go ashore for a howl and a dance? Well, 
no — I didn't. Fine sentiments, you say? Fine senti- 
ments, be hanged ! I had no time. I had to mess about 
with white-lead and strips of woolen blanket helping 
to put bandages on those leaky steam-pipes — ^I tell you. 
I had to watch the steering, and circumvent those snags, 
and get the tin-pot along by hook or by crook. There 
was surface-truth enough in these things to save a wiser 
man. And between whiles I had to look after the savage 
who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he 
could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me, 
and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as 
seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, 
walking on his hind-legs. A few months of training had 
done for that really fine chap. He squinted at the 


steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an evident 
effort of intrepidity — ^and he had filed teeth too, the 
poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer 
patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his 
cheeks. He ought to have been clapping his hands and 
stamping his feet on the bank, instead of which he was 
hard at work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of 
improving knowledge. He was useful because he had 
been instructed ; and what he knew was this — ^that should 
the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evil 
spirit inside the boiler would get angry through the 
greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance. 
So he sweated and fired up and watched the glass fear- 
fully (with an impromptu charm, made of rags, tied to 
' his arm, and a piece of polished bone, as big as a watch, 
stuck flatways through his lower lip), while the wooded 
banks slipped past us slowly, the short noise was left 
behind, the interminable miles of silence — and we crept 
on, towards Kurtz. But the snags were thick, the water 
was treacherous and shallow, the boiler seemed indeed 
to have a sulky devil in it, and thus neither that fire- 
man nor I had any time to peer into our creepy thoughts. 
" Some fifty miles below the Inner Station we came 
upon a hut of reeds, an inclined and melancholy pole, 
with the unrecognizable tatters of what had been a flag 
of some sort flying from it, and a neatly stacked wood- 
pile. This was unexpected. We came to the bank, and 
on the stack of firewood f oimd a flat piece of board with 
some faded pencil-writing on it. When deciphered it 
•fticl;* Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously/ 



There was a signature, but it was illegible — not Kurtz 
— a much longer word. Hurry up. Where? Up the 
river? * Approach cautiously.' We had not done so. 
But the warning could not have been meani for the place 
where it could be only found after approach. Some- 
thing was wrong above. But what — and how muoh? 
That was the question. We commented adversely upon 
the imbecility of that telegraphic style. The bush around 
said nothing, and would not let us look very far, either. 
A torn curtain of red twill hung in the doorway of the 
hut, and flapped sadly in our faces. The dwelling was 
dismantled; but we could see a white man had lived 
there not very long ago. There remained a rude table 
— ^a plank on two posts ; a heap of rubbish reposed in a 
dark comer, and by the door I picked up a book. It 
had lost its covers, and the pages had been thumbed into 
a state of extremely dirty softness ; but the back had been 
lovingly stitched afresh with white cotton thread, which 
looked clean yet. It was an extraordinary find. Its title 
was, * An Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship,' by a 
man Tower, Towson — some such name — Master in his 
Majesty's Navy. The matter looked dreary reading 
enough, with illustrative diagrams and repulsive tables of 
figures, and the copy was sixty years old. I handled this 
amazing antiquity with the greatest possible tenderness, 
lest it should dissolve in my hands. Within, Towson or 
Towser was inquiring earnestly into the breaking strain 
of ships' chains and tackle, and other such matters. Not 
a very enthralling book; but at the first glance you 
could see there a singleness of intention, an honest 0on- 

[ 112] 


ecm for the right way of going to work, which made 
theae humble pages* thought out so many years ago, 
luminous with another than a professional light. The 
simple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases, 
made me forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious 
sensation of having come upon something unmistakably 
real. Such a book being there was wonderful enough; 
but still more astounding were the notes penciled in the 
margin, and plainly referring to the text. I couldn't 
believe my eyes ! They were in cipher ! Yes, it looked 
like cipher. Fancy a man lugging with him a book of 
that description into this nowhere and studying it — 
and making notes — ^in cipher at that! It was an ex- 
travagant mystery. 

'' I had been dimly aware for some time of a worrying 
noise, and when I lifted my eyes I saw the wood-pile 
was gone, and the manager, aided by all the pilgrims, 
was shouting at me from the river-side. I slipped the 
book into my pocket. I assure you to leave off reading 
was like tearing myself away from the shelter of an old 
and solid friendship. 

*' I started the lame engine ahead. * It must be this 
miserable trader — ^this intruder,' exclaimed the manager, 
looking back malevolently at the place we had left. * He 
must be English,' I said. * It will not save him from 
getting into trouble if he is not careful,' muttered the 
manager darkly. I obsenred with assumed innocence that 
no man was safe from trouble in this world. 

'* The current was more rapid now, the steamer seemed 
at her last gasp, the stern-wheel flopped languidly, and 

[ 118] 


I caught myself listening on tiptoe for the next beat of 
the float, for in sober truth I expected the wretched thing 
to give up every moment. It was like watching the last 
flickers of a life. But still we crawled. Sometimes I 
would pick out a tree a little way ahead to measure our 
progress towards Kurtz by, but I lost it invariably be- 
fore we got abreast. To keep the eyes so long on one 
thing was too much for human patience. The manager 
displayed a beautiful resignation. I fretted and fumed 
And took to arguing with myself whether or no I would 
talk openly with Kurtz ; but before I could come to any 
conclusion it occurred to me that my speech or my silence, 
indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility. 
What did it matter what anyone knew or ignored.'^ What 
did it matter who was manager.? One gets sometimes 
such a flash of insight. The essentials of this affair lay 
deep under the surface, beyond my reach, and beyond 
my power of meddling. 

" Towards the evening of the second day we judged 
ourselves about eight miles from Kurtz's station. I 
wanted to push on; but the manager looked grave, and 
told me the navigation up there was so dangerous that it 
would be advisable, the sun being very low already, to 
wait where we were till next morning. Moreover, he 
pointed out that if the warning to approach cautiously 
were to be followed, we must approach in daylight — 
not at dusk, or in the dark. This was sensible enough. 
Eight miles meant nearly three hours' steaming for us, 
and I could also see suspicious ripples at the upper end 
of the reach. Nevertheless, I was annoyed beyond eX' 

C 11* ] 


pression at the delay, and most unreasonably too, since 
one night more could not matter much after so many 
months. As we had plenty of wood, and caution was 
the word, I brought up in the middle of the stream. 
The reach was narrow, straight, with high sides like a 
railway cutting. The dusk came gliding into it long 
before the sun had set. The current ran smooth and 
swift, but a diunb immobility sat on the banks. The 
living trees, lashed together by the creepers and every 
living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed 
into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest 
leaf. It was not sleep — it seemed unnatural, like a 
state of trance. Not the faintest sound of any kind 
could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to 
suspect yourself of being deaf — ^then the night came 
suddenly, and struck you blind as well. About three 
in the morning some large fish leaped, and the loud 
splash made me jump as though a gun had been fired. 
When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm 
and clammy, and more blinding than the night. It did 
not shift or drive; it was just there, standing all round 
you like something solid. At eight or nine, perhaps, it 
lifted as a shutter lifts. We had a glimpse of the tower- 
ing multitude of trees, of the immense matted jungle, 
with the blazing little ball of the sun hanging over it — 
all perfectly still — and then the white shutter came down 
again, smoothly, as if sliding in greased grooves. I 
ordered the chain, which we had begun to heave in, to 
be paid out again. Before it stopped running with a 
muffled rattle, a cry, a very loud cry, as of infinite 

C lis 3' 


desolation, soared slowly in the opaque air. It ceased. 
A complaining clamor, modulated in savage discords, 
filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness of it made 
my hair stir under my cap. I don't know how it struck 
the others: to me it seemed as though the mist itself 
had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all 
sides at once, did this tiunultuous and mournful uproar 
arise. It culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost 
intolerably excessive shrieking, which stopped short, leav- 
ing us stiffened in a variety of silly attitudes, and ob- 
stinately listening to the nearly as appalling and ex- 
cessive silence. * Good God ! What is the meaning ? ' 

stammered at my elbow one of the pilgrims, — ^a little 
fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, who wore 
side-spring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into his 
socks. Two others remained open-mouthed a whole min- 
ute, then dashed into the little cabin, to rush out in- 
continently and stand darting scared glances, with Win- 
chesters at * ready ' in their hands. What we could see 
was just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as 
though she had been on the point of dissolving, and a 
misty strip of water, perhaps two feet broad, around 
her — ^and that was all. The rest of the world was no- 
where, as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. Just 
nowhere. Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving 
a whisper or a shadow behind. 

" I went forward, and ordered the chain to be hauled 
in short, so as to be ready to trip the anchor and move 
the steamboat at once if necessary. * Will they attack? * 
whispered an awed voice. ' We will be all butchered in 

[ 116 3 


this fog,' murmured another. The faces twitched with 
the strain, the hands trembled slightly, the eyes forgot 
to wink. It was very curious to see the contrast of ex- 
pressions of the white men and of the black fellows of 
our crew, who were as much strangers to that part of the 
river as we, though their homes were only eight hundred 
miles away. The whites, of course greatly discomposed, 
had besides a curious look of being painfully shocked 
by such an outrageous row. The others had an alert, 
naturally interested expression; but their faces were es- 
sentially quiet, even those of the one or two who grinned 
as they hauled at the chain. Several exchanged short, 
grunting phrases, which seemed to settle .the matter to 
their satisfaction. Their headman, a young, broad- 
chested black, severely draped in dark-blue fringed 
cloths, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done up art- 
fully in oily ringlets, stood near me. ' Aha ! * I said, just 
for good fellowship's sake. ^ Catch 'im,' he snapped, 
with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of 
sharp teeth — * catch 'im. Give 'im to us.' * To you, 
ch? ' I asked; * what would you do with them? ' * Eat 
'im ! ' he said curtly, and, leaning his elbow on the rail, 
looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly 
pensive attitude. I would no doubt have been properly 
horrified, had it not occurred to me that he and his 
chaps must be very hungry: that they must have been 
growing increasingly hungry for at least this month 
past. They had been engaged for six months (I don't 
think a single one of them had any clear idea of time, 
as we at the end of countless ages have. They still be- 

£ 117 ] 


longed to the beginnings of time — ^had no inherited ex- 
perience to teach them as it were), and of course, as 
long as there was a piece of paper written over in ac- 
cordance with some farcical law or other made down the 
river, it didn't enter anybody's head to trouble how 
they would live. Certainly they had brought with them 
some rotten hippo-meat, which couldn't have lasted very 
long, anyway, even if the pilgrims hadn't, in the midst 
of a shocking hullabaloo, thrown a considerable quantity 
of it overboard. It looked like a high-handed proceed- 
ing; but it was really a case of legitimate self-defense. 
You can't breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and 
eating, and at the same time keep your precarious grip 
on existence. Besides that, they had given them every 
week three pieces of brass wire, each about nine inches 
long; and the theory was they were to buy their pro- 
visions with that currency in river-side villages. You 
can see how that worked. There were either no villages, 
or the people were hostile, or the director, who like the 
rest of us fed out of tins, with an occasional old he-goat 
thrown in, didn't want to stop the steamer for some more 
or less recondite reason. So, unless they swallowed the 
wire itself, or made loops of it to snare the fishes with, 
I don't see what good their extravagant salary could be 
to them. I must say it was paid with a regularity worthy 
of a large and honorable trading company. For the 
rest, the only thing to eat — ^though it didn't look eat- 
able in the least — I saw in their possession was a few 
lumps of some stuiF like half -cooked dough, of a dirty 
lavender color^ they kept wrapped in leaves, and now and 

[118 1 


then swallowed a piece of, but so small that it seemed 
done more for the looks of the thing than for any seri- 
ous purpose of sustenance. Why in the name of all the 
gnawing devils of hunger they didn't go for us — they 
were thirty to five — and have a good tuck in for once, 
amazes me now when I think of it. They were big 
powerful men, with not much capacity to weigh the con- 
sequences, with courage, with strength, even yet, though 
their skins were no longer glossy and their muscles no 
longer hard. And I saw that something restraining, one 
of those human secrets that baffle probability, had come 
into play there. I looked at them with a swift quicken- 
ing of interest — ^not because it occurred to me I might 
be eaten by them before very long, though I own to you 
that just then I perceived — ^in a new light, as it were — 
how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and I hoped, yes, 
I positively hoped, that my aspect was not so — ^what shall 
I say? — so — unappetizing: a touch of fantastic vanity 
which fitted well with the dream-sensation that pervaded 
all my days at that time. Perhaps I had a little fever 
too. One can't live with one's finger everlastingly on 
one's pulse. I had often * a little fever,' or a little touch 
of other things — ^the playful paw-strokes of the wilder- 
ness, the preKminary trifling before the more serious 
onslaught which came in due course. Yes; I looked at 
them as you would on any hmnan being, with a curiosity 
of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when 
brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. 
Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it supersti- 
tion, disgust, patience, fear — or some kind of primitive 

[ 119 .1 


honor? No fear can stand up to hunger ^ no patience 
can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where 
hunger is ; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you 
may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. 
Don't you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its 
exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its somber and 
brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all his 
inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It's really 
easier to face bereavement, dishonor, and the perdition 
of one's soul — ^than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad, 
but true. And these chaps too had no earthly reason 
for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as 
soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling 
amongst the corpses of a battlefield. But there was the 
fact facing me — ^the fact dazzling, to be seen, like the 
foam on the depths of the sea, like a ripple on an un- 
fathomable enigma, a mystery greater — ^when I thought 
of it — ^than the curious, inexplicable note of desperate 
gria in this savage clamor that had swept by us on the 
river-bank, behind the blind whiteness of the fog. 

**Two pilgrims were quarreling in hurried whispers 
as to which bank. *Left.' * No, no; how can you? 
Right, right, of course.' * It is very serious,' said the 
manager's voice behind me ; * I would be desolated if 
anything should happen to Mr. Kurtz before we came 
up.' I looked at him, and had not the slightest doubt 
he was sincere. He was just the kind of man who would 
whUi to preserve appearances. That was his restraint. 
But when he muttered something about going on at once, 
I did not even take the trouble to answer him. I knew. 


<tnd he knew, that it was impossible. Were we to let go 
our hold of the bottom, we would be absolutdy in the 
air — ^in space. We wouldn't be able to tell where we 
were going to — ^whether up or do\m stream, or across 
' — till we fetched against one bank or the other, — ^and 
then we wouldn't know at first which it was. Of course 
I made no move. I had no mind for a smash-up. You 
touldn't imagine a more deadly place for a shipwreck. 
Whether drowned at once or not, we were sure to perish 
speedily in one way or another. * I authorize you to 
take all the risks,' he said, after a short silence. * I refuse 
to take any,' I said shortly; which was just the answer 
he expected, though its tone might have surprised him. 
' Well, I must defer to your judgment. You are cap- 
tain,' he said, with marked civility. I turned my shoul- 
der to him in sign of my appreciation, and looked into 
the fog. How long would it last? It was the most hope- 
less look-out. The approach to this Kurtz grubbing 
for ivory in the wretched bush was beset by as many 
dangers as though he had been an enchanted princess 
sleeping in a fabulous castle. * Will they attack, do you 
think? ' asked the manager, in a confidential tone. 

" I did not think they would attack, for several obvious 
reasons. The thick fog was one. If they left the bank 
in their canoes they would get lost in it, ai? we would 
be if we attempted to move. Still, I had also judged the 
jungle of both banks quite impenetrable — and yet eyes 
were in it, eyes that had seen us. The river-side bushes 
were certainly very thick; but the undergrowth behind 
was evidently penetrable. However, during the short 

[ i«i 1 


lift I had seen no canoes anywhere in the reach — cer- 
tainly not abreast of the steamer. But what made the 
idea of attack inconceivable to me was the nature of the 
noise — of the cries we had heard. They had not the 
fierce character boding of immediate hostile intention. 
Unexpected, wild, and violent as they had been, they had 
given me an irresistible impression of sorrow. The 
glimpse of th(5 steamboat had for some reason filled those 
savages with unrestrained grief. The danger, if any, 
I expounded, was from our proximity to a great hu- 
man passion let loose. Even extreme grief may ulti- 
mately vent itself in violence — ^but more generally takes 
the form of apathy. . . . 

" You should have seen the pilgrims stare ! They had 
no heart to grin, or even to revile me ; but I believe they 
thought me gone mad — ^with fright, maybe. I delivered 
a regular lecture. My dear boys, it was no good bother- 
ing. Keep a look-out? Well, you may guess I watched 
the fog for the signs of lifting as a cat watches a mouse ; 
but for anything else our eyes were of no more use to 
us than if we had been buried miles deep in a heap of 
cotton-wool. It felt like it too — choking, warm, stifling. 
Besides, all I said, though it sounded extravagant, was 
absolutely true to fact. What we afterwards alluded 
to as an attack was really an attempt at repulse. The 
action was very far from being aggressive — it was not 
even defensive, in the usual sense: it was undertaken 
under the stress of desperation, and in its essence was 
purely protective. 

" It developed itself, I should say, two hours after ihe 

[ 1«2 I 


fog lifted, and its commencement was at a spot, rougMy 
speaking, about a mile and a half below Kurtz's station. 
We had just floundered and flopped round, a bend, when 
I saw an islet, a mere grassy hummock of bright green, 
in the middle of the stream. It was the only thing of 
the kind; but as we opened the reach more, I perceived 
it was the head of a long sandbank, or rather of a chain 
of shallow patches stretching down the middle of the 
river. They were discolored, just awash, and the whole 
lot was seen just under the water, exactly as a man's 
backbone is seen running down the middle of his back 
under the skin. Now, as far as I did see, I could go 
to the right or to the left of this. I didn't know either 
channel, of course. The banks looked pretty well alike, 
the depth appeared the same ; but as I had been informed 
the station was on the west side, I naturally headed for 
the western passage. 

" No sooner had we fairly entered it than I became 
aware it was much narrower than I had supposed. To 
the left of us there was the long uninterrupted shoal, 
and to the right a high, steep bank heavily overgrown 
with bushes. Above the bush the trees stood in serried 
ranks. The twigs overhung the current thickly, and 
from distance to distance a large limb of some tree pro- 
jected rigidly over the stream. It was then well on in 
the afternoon, the face of the forest was gloomy, and 
a broad strip of shadow had already fallen on the water. 
In this shadow we steamed up — ^very slowly, as you may 
imagine. I sheered her well inshore — ^the water being 
deepest near the bank, as the sounding-pole informed me. 

[ 123 ] 


** One of my hungry and forbearing friends was sound- 
ing in the bows just below me. This steamboat was 
exactly like a decked scow. On the deck there were two 
little teak-wood houses, with doors and windows. The 
boiler was in the fore-end, and the machinery right 
astern. Over the whole there was a light roof, supported 
on stanchions. The funnel projected through that roof, 
and in front of the funnel a small cabin built of light 
planks served for a pilot-house. It contained a couch, 
two camp-stools, a loaded Martini-Henry leaning in one 
comer, a tiny table, and the steering-wheel. It had a 
wide door in front and a broad shutter at each side. All 
these were always thrown open, of course. I spent my 
days perched up there on the extreme fore-end of that 
roof, before the door. At night I slept, or tried to, on 
the couch. An athletic black belonging to some coast 
tribe, and educated by my poor predecessor, was the 
helmsman. He sported a pair of brass earrings, wore a 
blue cloth wrapper from the waist to the ankles, and 
thought all the world of himself. He was the most 
unstable kind of fool I had ever seen. He steered with 
no end of a swagger while you were by; but if he lost 
sight of you, he became instantly the prey of an abject 
funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat get the 
npper hand of him in a minute. 

" I was looking down at the sounding-pole, and feel- 
ing much annoyed to see at each try a little more of it 
stick out of that river, when I saw my poleman give up 
the business suddenly, and stretch himself flat on 
the deck, without even taking the trouble to haul his 

[ 124 ] 



pole in. He kept hold on it though, and it trailed in 
the water. At the same time the fireman, whom I could 
ako see below me, sat down abruptly before his furnace 
and ducked his head. I was amazed. Then I had to look 
at the river mighty quick, because there was a snag in 
the fairway. Sticks, little sticks, were flying about — 
thick : they were whizzing before my nose, dropping be- 
low me, striking behind me against my pilot-house. All 
this time the river, the shore, the woods, were very quiet — 
perfectly quiet. I could only hear the heavy splashing 
thump of the stern-wheel and the pattei* of these things. 
We cleared the snag clumsily. Arrows, by Jove! We 
were being shot at! I stepped in qtiickly to close the 
shutter on the land side. That fool-helmsman, his hands 
on the spokes, was lifting his knees high, stamping his 
feet, chanaping his mouth, like a reined-in horse. Con- 
found him ! And we were staggering within ten feet of 
the bank. I had to lean right out to swing the heavy 
shutter, and I saw a face amongst the leaves on the 
level with my own, looking at me very fierce and steady ; 
and then suddenly, as though a veil had been removed 
from my eyes, I made out, deep in the tangled gloom, 
naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes, — ^the bush was 
swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of 
bronze color. The twigs shook, swayed, and rustled, the 
arrows flew out of them, and then the shutter came to. 
* Steer her straight,' I said to the helmsman. He held 
his head rigid, face forward; but his eyes rolled, he 
kept on lifting and setting down his feet gently, his 
mouth foamed a little. ^ Keep quiet ! ' I said in a fury. 

[ 125 ] 


I might just as well have ordered a tree not to sway 
in the wind. I darted out. Below me there was i^ great 
scuffle of feet on the iron deck; confused exclamations; 
a voice screamed, ' Can you turn back? ' .1 oaught sight 
of a V-shaped ripple on the water ahead. VS^at? An- 
other snag! A fusillade burst out under my feet. The 
pilgrims had opened with their Winchesters, and were 
simply squirting lead into that bush. A deuce of a 
lot of smoke came up and drove slowly forward. I 
swore at it. Now I couldn't see the ripple or the snag 
either. I stood in the doorway, peering, and the arrows 
came in swarms. They might have been poisoned, but 
they looked as though they wouldn't kill a cat. The 
bush be^an to howl. Our wood-cutters raised a warlike 
whoop; the report of a rifle just at my back deafened 
me. I glanced over my shoulder, and the pilot-house 
was yet full of noise and smoke when I made a dash 
at the wheel. The fool-nigger had dropped everjrthing, 
to throw the shutter open and let off that Martini-Henry. 
He stood before the wide opening, glaring, and I yelled 
at him to come back, while I straightened the sudden 
twist out of that steamboat. There was no room to 
turn even if I had wanted to, the snag was somewhere 
very near ahead in that confounded smoke, there 
was no time to lose, so I just crowded her into the 
bank — aright into the bank, where I knew the water 
was deep. 

" We tore slowly along the overhanging bushes in a 
whirl of broken twigs and flying leaves. The fusillade 
below stopped short, as I had foreseen it would whea 

[ 126 ] 


the squirts got empty, I threw my head back to a gllnt- 
ing whizz that traversed the pilot-house, in at one shutter- 
hole and out at the other. Looking past that mad helms- 
man, who was shaking the empty rifle and yelling at 
the shore, I saw vague forms of men running bent double, 
leaping, gliding, distinct, incomplete, evanescent. Some- 
thing big appeared in the air before the shutter, the 
rifle went overboard, and the man stepped back swiftly, 
looked at me over his shoulder in an extraordinary, pro- 
found, familiar manner, and fell upon my feet. The 
side of his head hit the wheel twice, and the end of what 
appeared a long cane clattered round and knocked over 
a little camp-stool. It looked as though after wrench- 
ing that thing from somebody ashore he had lost his 
balance in the efi^ort. The thin smoke had blown away, 
we were clear of the snag, and looking ahead I could see 
that in another hundred yards or so I would be free to 
sheer ofl^, away from the bank ; but my feet felt so very 
warm and wet that I had to look down. The man had 
rolled on his back and stared straight up at me; both 
his hands clutched that cane. It was the shaft of a 
spear that, either thrown or lunged through the open- 
ing, had caught him in the side just below the ribs; the 
blade had gone in out of sight, after making a frightful 
^sh; my shoes were full; a pool of blood lay very still, 
gleaming dark-red under the wheel; his eyes shone with 
an amazing luster. The fusillade burst out again. He 
looked at me anxiously, gripping the spear like some- 
thing precious, with an air of being afraid I would try 
to take it away from him. I had to make an effort tm 


free my eyes from his gaze and attend to the steering. 
With one hand I felt above my head for the line of the 
steam-whistle, and jerked out screech after screech hur- 
riedly. The tumult of angry and warlike yells was 
checked instantly, and then from the depths of the woods 
went out such a tremulous and prolonged wail of mourn- 
ful fear and utter despair as may be imagined to follow 
the flight of the last hope from the earth. There was 
a great commotion in the bush; the shower of arrows 
stopped, a few dropping shots rang out sharply — ^then 
silence, in whicji the languid beat of the stern-wheel 
came plainly to my ears. I put the helm hard a-star- 
board at the moment wheE the pilgrim in pink pyjamas, 
very hot and agitated, appeared in the doorway. ' The 

manager sends me ' he began in an official tone, and 

stopped short. * Good God ! ' he said, glaring at the 
wounded man. " 

*^ We two whites stood pver him, and his lustrous and 
inquiring glance enveloped us both. I declare it looked 
as though he would presently put to us some question in 
an understandable language ; but he died without utter- 
ing a sound, without moving a limb, without twitching 
a muscle. Only in the very last moment, as though in 
response to some sign we could not see, to some whisper 
we coiild not hear, he frowned heavily, and that frown 
gave to his black death-mask an inconceivably somber, 
brooding, and menacing expression. The luster of in- 
quiring glance faded swiftly into vacant glassiness. . - Can 
you steer? ' I asked the agent eagerly. He looked very 
(iubious; but I made a grab at his arm, and h^ under- 


i stood at once I meant him to steer whether or no. To 
I tell you the truth, I was morbidly anxious to change 
I my shoes and socks. * He is dead,' murmured the fel- 
low, immensely impressed. * No doubt about it,' said I, 
tugging like mad at the shoe-laces. * And, by the way, 
I suppose Mr. Kurtz is dead as well by this time.* 

" For the moment that was the dominant thought. 
There was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though 
I had found out I had been striving after something al- 
together without a substance. I couldn't have been more 
disgusted if I had traveled all this way for the sole 
purpose of talking with Mr. Kurtz. Talking with. 
... I flung one shoe overboard, and became aware 
that that was exactly what I had been looking forward 
to — ^a talk with Kurtz. I made the strange discovery 
that I had never imagined him as doing, you know, but 
as discoursing. I didn't say to myself, * Now I will 
never see him,' or * Now I will never shake him by the 
hand,' but, * Now I will never hear him.' The man pre' 
sented himself as a voice. Not of course that I did not 
connect him with some sort of action. Hadn't I been 
told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he 
had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory 
than all the other agents together? That was not the 
point. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and 
that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre^ 
eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, 
was his ability to talk, his words— the gift of expression, 
the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and 
the most contemptible, the pulsating stream \)f Ught, or 

I 129 1 


the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable 

" The other ghoe went flying unto the devil-god of that 
river. I thought, By Jove! it's all over. We are too 
late; he has vanished — ^the gift has vanished, by means 
of some spear, arrow, or club. I will never hear that 
chap speak after all, — and my sorrow had a startling 
extravagance of emotion, even such as I had noticed in 
the howling sorrow of these savages in the bush. I 
couldn't have felt more of lonely desolation somehow, 
had I been robbed of a belief or had missed my destiny 
in life. . . . Why do you sigh in this beastly way, 
somebody? Absurd? Well, absurd. Gk)od Lord! 
mustn't a man ever Here, give me some to- 
bacco." . . . 

There was a pause of profound stillness, then a match 
flared, and Marlow's lean face appeared, worn, hollow, 
with downward folds and dropped eyelids, with an aspect 
of concentrated attention ; and as he took vigorous draws 
at his pipe, it seemed to retreat and advance out of the 
night in the regular flicker of the tiny flame. The match 
went out. 

" Absurd ! " he cried. " This is the worst of trying 
to tell. . . . Here you all are, each moored with two 
good addresses, like a hulk with two anchors, a butcher 
round one comer, a policeman round another, excellent 
appetites, and temperature normal — ^you hear — ^normal 
from year's end to year's end. And you say, Absurd! 
Absurd be — exploded! Absurd! My dear boys, what 
can you expect from a man who out of sheer nervoua- 

[ 130 ] 


ness had just flung overboard a pair of new shoes. 
Now I think of it, it is amazing I did not shed tears. 
I am, upon the whole, proud of my fortitude, I was 
cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable 
privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz. Of course 
I was wrong. The privilege was waiting for me. Oh 
yes, I heard more than enough. And I was right, too. 
A voice. He was very little more than a voice. And 
I heard — ^him — ^it — ^this voice — other voices — all of them 
were so little more than voices — and the memory of that 
time itself lingers around me, impalpable, like a dying 
vibration of one immense jabber, silly, atrocious, sordid^ 
savage, or simply mean, without any kind of sense. 
Voices, voices — even the girl herself — now -** 

He was silent for a long time. 

** I laid the ghost of his gifts at last with a lie," he 
began suddenly. "Girl! What.? Did I mention a 
girl? Oh, she is out of it — completely. They — ^the 
women I mean — ^are out of it — should be out of it. We 
must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their 
own, lest ours gets worse. Oh, she had to be out of it. 

you should have heard the disinterred body of Mr. 
Kurtz saying, * My Intended.' You would have per- 
ceived directly then how completely she was out of it. 
And the lofty frontal bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say 
the hair goes on growing sometimes, but this — ah — 

specimen, was impressively bald. The wilderness had 

patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball 
— an ivory ball ; it had caressed him, and — ^lo ! — ^he had 
withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced hixOf 

[131 ] 


got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his 
soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some 
devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered 
favorite. Ivory? I should think so. Heaps of it, 
stacks of it. The old mud shanty was bursting with it. 
You would think there was not a single tusk left either 
above or below the ground in the whole country. * Mostly- 
fossil/ the manager had remarked disparagingly. It 
was no more fossil than I am; but they call it fossil 
when it is dug Up. It appears these niggers do bury 
the tusks sometimes — ^but evidently they couldn't bury 
this parcel deep enough to save the gifted Mr. Kurtz 
from his fate. We filled the steamboat with it, and had 
to pile a lot on the deck. Thus he could see and enjoy 
as long as he coiild see, because the appreciation of 
this favor had remained with him to the last. You should 
have heard him say, * My ivory.' Oh yes, I heard liim. 

* My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my ' 

everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath 
in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a 
prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed 
stars in their places. Everything belonged to him — ^but 
that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he be- 
longed to, how many^ powers of darkness claimed him 
for their own. That was the reflection that made you 
creepy all over. It was impossible — it was not good for 
one either — ^trying to imagine. He had taken a high 
seat amongst the devils of the land — ^I mean literally. 
You can't understand. How could you? — ^with solid 
pavement under your feet, surroimded by kind neigh- 

[ 182 ] 


bors rejrdy to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping 
delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the 
holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums 
' — ^how can you imagine what particular region of the 
first ages a man's untrammeled feet may take him into 
by the way of solitude — utter solitude without a police- 
man — ^by the way of silence — utter silence, where no 
wammg voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whisper- 
ing of public opinion? These little things make all the 
great difference. When they are gone you must fall 
back upon your own innate strength, upon your own 
capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too 
much of a fool to go wrong — too dull even to know j^ou 
are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take 
it, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the 
devil: the fool is too much of a fool, or the devil too 
much of a devil — ^I don't know which. Or you may be 
such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether 
deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and 
sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place 
— ^and whether to be like this is your loss or youi* gain I 
won't pretend to say. But most of us are neither one 
nor the other. The earth for Us is a place to live in, 
where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with 
smells too, by Jove! — breathe dead hippo, so to speak, 
and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see? 
your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the 
digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in — 
your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an 
obscure, back-breaking business. And that's difficult 

[ 138 ] 


enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even ex* 
plain — ^I am trying to account to myself for — for — Mr, 
Kurtz — for the shade of Mr. Kurtz. This initiated 
wraith from the back of Nowhere honored me with its 
amazing confidence before it vanished altogether. This 
was because it could speak English to me. The original 
Kurtz had been educated partly in England, and — as 
he wad good enough to say himself — ^his sympathies were 
in the right place. His mother was half -English, his 
father was half -French. All Europe contributed to the 
making of Kurtz; and by-and-by I learned that, most 
appropriately, the International Society for the Sup- 
pression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the 
making of a report, for its future guidance. And he 
had written it too. I've seen it. IVe read it. It was 
eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, 
I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found 
time for! But this must have been before his — ^let us 
say — nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at 
certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, 
which — as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I 
heard at various times — ^were offered up to him — do you 
understand? — to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beau- 
tiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, how- 
ever, in the light of lateip information, strikes me now 
cis ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, 
from the point of development we had arrived at, * must 
necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of 
supernatural beings — ^we approach them with the might 
as of a deity,' and so on, and so on« ^ By the simple 

[ 184. ] 


exercise of our will we can exert a power for good 
practically unbounded,' &c., &c. From that point he 
soared and took me with him. The peroration was mag- 
zuficent, though difficult to remember, you know. It 
gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by 
an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with en- 
thusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence 
— of words — of burning noble words. There were no 
practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, 
unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, 
scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, 
may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It 
was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal 
to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous 
and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky : 
* Exterminate all the brutes ! ' The curious part was 
that he had apparently forgotten all about that valu- 
able postscriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense 
came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take 
good care of *my pamphlet' (he called it), as it was 
sure to have in the future a good influence upon his 
career. I had full information about all these things, 
and, besides, as it turned out, I was to have the care of 
his memory. I've done enough for it to give me the 
indisputable right to lay it, if I choose, for an everlast- 
ing rest in the dust-bin of progress, amongst all the 
sweepings and, figuratively speaking, all the dead cats 
of civilization. But then, you see, I can't choose. He 
won't be forgotten; Whatever he was, he was not com- 
mon. He had the power to charm or frighten nidi-* 

C 185 1 


mentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance i.i his 
honor; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims 
with bitter misgivings: he had one devoted friend at 
least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that 
was neither rudimentary nor tainted with self-seeking. 
No; I can't forget him, though I am not prepared to 
affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lost in 
getting to him. I missed my late helmsman awfully, — 
I missed him even while his body was still lying in the 
pilot-house. Periiaps you will think it passing strange 
this regret for a savage who was no more account than 
a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don't you see, 
he had done something, he had steered; for months I 
had him at my back — a help — ^an instrument. It was 
a kind of partnership. He steered for me — 1 had to 
look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus 
a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became 
aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate 
profundity of that look he gave me when he received 
his hurt remains to this day in my memory — like a claim 
of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment. 

"Poor fool! If he had only left that shutter alone. 
He had no restraint, no restraint — ^just like Kurtz — a 
tree swayed by the wind. As soon as I had put on a dry 
pair of slippers, I dragged him out, after first jerking 
the spear out of his side, which operation I confess I 
performed with my eyes shut tight. His heels leaped 
together over the little door-step; his shoulders were 
pressed to my breast; I hugged him from behind des- 
perately. Oh J he was heavy, heavy; heavier than any 

I 180 1 


man on earth, I should imagine. Then without more 
ado I tipped him overboard. The current snatched him 
as though he heul been a wisp of grass, and I saw the 
body roll over twice before I lost sight of it for ever. 
All the pilgrims and the manager were then congregated 
on the awning-deck about the pilot-house, chattering at 
each other like a flock of excited magpies, and there was 
a scandalized murmur at my heartless promptitude. 
What they wanted to keep that body hanging about for 


I can't guess. Embalm it, maybe. But I had also heard 
another, and a very ominous, murmur on the deck below. 
My friends the wood-cutters were likewise scandalized, 
and with a better show of reason — though I admit that 
the reason itself was quite inadmissible. Oh, quite! I 
had made up my mind that if my late helmsman was to 
be eaten, the fishes alone should have him. He had 
been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now 
he was dead he might have become a first-class tempta- 
tion, and possibly cause some startling trouble. Besides, 
I was anxious to take the wheel, the man iu pink pyjamas 
showing himself a hopeless duffer at the business. 

" This I did directly the simple funeral was over. We 
were going half -speed, keeping right in the middle of 
the stream, and I listened to the talk about me. They 
had given up Kurtz, they had given up the station; 
Kuriz was dead, and the station had been burnt — and 
so on—and so on. The red-haired pilgrim was beside 
himself with the thought that at least this poor Kurtz 
had been properly revenged. *Sayl We must have 
made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? 

[187 1 


What do you think? Say? ' He positively danced, the 
bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. And he had nearly 
fainted when he saw the wounded man! I could not 
help saying, ' You made a glorious lot of smoke, any- 
how.' I had seen, from the way the tops of the bushes 
rustled and flew, that almost all the shots had gone too 
high. You can't hit anything unless you take aim and 
fire from the shoulder; but these chaps fired from the 
hip with their eyes shut. The retreat, I maintained — 
and I was right — ^was caused by the screeching of the 
steam-whistle. Upon this they forgot Kurtz, and be^ran 
to howl at me with indignant protests. 

** The manager stood by the wheel murmuring confi- 
dentially about the necessity of getting well away down 
the river before dark at all events, when I saw in the 
distance a clearing on the river-side and the outlines of 
some sort of building. * What's this?' I asked. He 
clapped his hands in wonder. * The station ! ' he cried. 
I edged in at once, still going half -speed. 

" Through my glasses I saw the slope of a hill inter- 
spersed with rare trees and perfectly free from under- 
growth. A long decajdng building on the summit was 
half buried in the high grass; the large holes in the 
peaked roof gaped black from afar; the jungle and 
the woods made a background. There was no inclosure 
or fence of any kind ; but there had been one apparently, 
for near the house half-a-dozem slim posts remained in 
a row, roughly trimmed, and with their upper ends orna- 
mented with round carved balls. The rails, or what- 
ever there had been between, had disappeared. Of 



course the forest surrounded all that. The rivcr-bank 
was clear, and on the water-side I saw a white man under 
a hat like a cart-wheel beckoning persistently with his 
whole arm. j^xamining the edge of the forest above and 
below, I was almost certain I could see movements — 
human forms gliding here and there, t I steamed past 
prudently, then stopped the engines and let her drift 
down. The man on the shore began to shout, urging us 
to land. * We have been attacked,' screamed* the man- 
ager. * I know — ^I know. It's all right,' yelled back the 
other, as cheerful as you please. ^ Come along. It's all 
right. I am glad.' 

" His aspect reminded me of something I had seen — 
something funny I had seen somewhere. As I maneuvered 
to get alongside, I was asking myself, ^ What does this 
fellow look like? ' Suddenly I got it. He looked like a 
harlequin. His clothes had been made of some stuff 
that was brown holland probably, but it was covered with 
patches all over, with bright patches, blue, red, and yel- 
low, — ^patches on the back, patches on front, patches on 
elbows, on knees ; colored binding round his jacket, scar- 
let edging at the bottom of his trousers; and the sun- 
shine made him look extremely gay and wonderfully neat 
withal, because you could see how beautifully all this 
patching had been done. A beardless, boyish face, very 
fair, no features to speak of, nose peeling, little blue 
eyes, smiles and frowns chasing each other over that 
open countenance like sunshine and shadow on a wind- 
swept plain. * Look out, captain ! ' he cried ; ' there's a 
snag lodged in here last night.' What! Another 

[ 139 ] 


snag? I confess I swore shamefully. I had nearly holed 
my cripple, to finish off that charming trip. The harle- 
quin on the bank turned his little pug nose up to me. 
*You English?* he asked, all smiles. *Are you?' I 
shouted from the wheel. The smiles vanished, and he 
shook his heeA as if sorry for my disappointment. Then 
he brightened up. * Never mind ! ' he cried encourag- 
ingly. * Are we in time? ' I asked. ' He is up there,' 
he replied, with a toss of the head up the hill, and 
becoming gloomy all of a sudden. His face was like 
the autumn sky, overcast one moment and bright the 

** When the manager, escorted by the pilgrims, all of 
them armed to the teeth, had gone to the house, this 
chap came on board. ^ I say, I don't like this. These 
natives are in the bush,' I said. He assured me earnestly 
it was all right. * They are simple people,' he added ; 

* well, I am glad you came. It took me all my time to 
keep them off.' * But you said it was all right,' I cried. 

* Oh, they meant no harm,' he said ; and as I stared he 
corrected himself, * Not exactly.' Then vivaciously, 

* My faith, your pilot-house wants a clean up ! ' In the 
next breath he advised me to keep enough steam on the 
boiler to blow the whistle in case of any trouble. * One 
good screech will do more for you than all your rifles. 
They are simple people,' he repeated. He rattled away 
at such a rate he quite overwhelmed me. He seemed to 
be trying to make up for lots of silence, and actually 
hinted, laughing, that such was the case. ^ Don't you 
talk with Mr. Kurtz ? ' I said. * You don't talk with 

[ 140 ] 




that man— -you listen to him/ ho exclaimed with severe 
exaltation. * But now — ^^-^* Qe waved his anB« and im 
the twinkling of an eye was in the uttermos^t depths of 
despondency. In a moment he came up again with a 
jump, possessed himself of both my hands, shook them 
continuously, while he gabbled: ^Brother sailor . . • 
honor . . . pleasure .« . . delight .... introduce 
myself . . . Russian . . . son of an arch-priest 
. . . Grovemment of Tambov . . . What? Tobacco! 
English tobacco; the excellent English tobacco! Now, 
that's brotherly. Smoke? Where's a sailor that does 

' not smoke?' 

'^ The pipe soothed him, and gradually I made out he 
had run away from school, had gone to sea in a Russian 
sliip; ran away again; served some time in English 
ihips ; was now reconciled with the arch-priest. He made 
a point of that. * But when one is young one must see 
things, gather experience, ideas; enlarge the mind.' 
' Here ! ' I interrupted. * You can never tell ! Here I 
have met Mr. Kurtz,' he said, youthfully solemn and 
reproachful. I held my tongue after that. It appears 
he had persuaded a Dutch trading-house on the coast 
to fit him out with stores and goods, and had started for 
the interior with a light heart, and no more idea of what 
would happen to him than a baby. He had been wan- 
dering about that river for nearly two years alone, cut 
off from everybody and everything. * I am not so young 
as I look. I am twenty-five,' he said. * At first old Van 
Shuylen would tell me to go to the devil,' he narrated 
with keen enjoyment ; ^ but I stuck to him, and talked 

t 141 ] 


and talked, till at last he got afraid I would talk the 
hind-leg off his favorite dog, so he gave me some cheap 
things and a few guns, and told me he hoped he woidd 
never see my face again. Good old Dutchman, Van 
Shujrten. I've sent him one small lot of ivory a year 
ago, so that he can't call me a little thief when I get 
back. I hope he got it. And for the rest I don't care. 
I had some wood stacked for you. That was my old 
Louse. Did you see? ' 

'^ I gave him Towson's book. He made as though he 
would kiss me, but restrained himself. ^ The only book 
I had left, and I thought I had lost it,' he said, looking 
at it ecstatically. * So many accidents happen to a man 
going about alone, you know. Canoes get upset some- 
times — ^and sometimes you've got to clear out so quick 
when the people get angry.' He thumbed the pages. 
*You made notes in Russian?' I asked. He nodded. 

* I thought they were written in cipher,' I said. He 
laughed, then became serious. ^ I had lots of trouble 
to keep these people off,' he said. * Did they want to 
kill you? ' I asked. * Oh no !' he cried, and checked him- 
self. ' Why did they attack us? ' I pursued. He hesi- 
tated, then said shamefacedly, ' They don't want him to 
go.' 'Don't they?' I said, curiously. He nodded a 
nod full of mystery and wisdom. * I tell you,' he cried, 

* this man has enlarged my mind.' He opened his arms 
wide, staring at me with his little blue eyes that were 
perfectly round." 




^^I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There he 
was before me, in motley, as though he had absconded 
from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. His 
verj existence was improbable, inexplicable, and alto- 
gether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It 
was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had suc- 
ceeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain 
— ^why he did not instantly disappear. * I went a little 
farther,' he said, * then still a little farther — ^till I had 
gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get back. 
Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take 
Kurtz away quick — quick — I tell you.' The glamour of 
youth enveloped his particolored rags, his destitution, his 
loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wander- 
ings. For months — for years — ^his life hadn't been 
worth a day's purchase; and there he was gallantly, 
thoughtlessly alive, to all appearance indestructible solely 
by the virtue; of his few years and of his unreflecting 
audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration 
— ^like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him 
unscathed. He surely wanted nothing from the wilder- 
ness but space to breathe in and to push on through. 
His need was to exist, and to move onwards at the great- 
est possible risk, and with a maximum of privation. If 
the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of 
adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this 
be-patched youth. I almost envied him the possession 

[ 143] 


of this modest and dear flame. It seemed to have con- 
sumed all thought of self so completely, that, even while 
he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he — ^the 
man before your eyes — ^who had gone through these 
things. I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, 
though. He had not meditated over it. It came to him, 
and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism. I must 
say that to me it appeared about the most dangerous 
thing in every way he had come upon so far. 

" They had come together unavoidably, like two ships 
becalmed near each other, and lay rubbing sides at last. 
I suppose Kurtz wanted an audience, because on a cer- 
tain occasion, when encamped in the forest, they had 
talked all night, or more probably Kurtz had talked. 
* We talked of everything,' he said, quite transported 
at the recollection. ^ I forgot there was such a thing 
as sleep. The night did not seem to last an hour. Every- 
thing! Everything! ... Of love too.' *Ah, he 
talked to you of love ! ' I said, much amused. * It isn't 
what you think,' he cried, almost passionately. * It was 
im general. He made me see things — ^things.' 

" He threw his arms up. We were on deck at the time, 
and the headman of my wood-cutters, lounging near by, 
turned upon him his heavy and glittering eyes. I looked 
around, and I don't know why, but I assure you that 
never, never before, did this land, this river, this jungle., 
the very arch of this blazing sky, appear to me so hope- 
less and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so 
pitiless to human weakness. * And, ever since, you have 
been with him, of course? ' I said. 

[ 144] 


" On the contrary. It appears their intercourse had 
been very much broken by various causes. He had, as 
he informed me proudly, managed to nurse Kurtz 
through two illnesses (he alluded to it as you would to 
some risky feat), but as a rule Kurtz wandered alone, 
far in the depths of the forest. * Very often coming to 
this station, I had to wait days and days before he would 
turn up,' he said. *Ah, it was worth waiting for! — 
sometimes.' * What was he doing? exploring or what? ' 
I asked. * Oh yes, of course ; ' he had discovered lots of 
villages, a lake too — ^he did not know exactly in what 
direction; it was dangerous to inquire too much — ^but 
mostly his expeditions had been for ivory. * But he had 
no goods to trade with by that time,' I objected. ' There's 
a good lot of cartridges left even yet,' he answered, look- 
ing away. * To speak plainly, he raided the country,' 
I said. He nodded. * Not alone, surely ! ' He muttered 
something about the villages round that lake. * Kurtz 
got the tribe to follow him, did he? ' I suggested. He 
fidgeted a little. * They adored him,' he said. The tone 
of these words was so extraordinary that I looked at 
him searchingly. It was curious to see his mingled eager- 
ness and reluctance to speak of Kurtz. The man filled 
his life, occupied his thoughts, swayed his emotions. 
* What can you expect? ' he burst out ; * he came to them 
with thunder and lightning, you know — and they had 
never seen anything like it — and very terrible. He could 
be very terrible. You can't judge Mr. Kurtz as you 
would an ordinary man. No, no, no! Now — ^just to 
give you an idea — I don't mind telling yoUf he wanted 

[ 146] 


to shoot me too one day — ^but I don't judge him,' 
« Shoot you! ' I cried. ' What for? ' ' WeU, I had a 
small lot of ivory the chief of that village near my house 
gave me. You see I used to shoot game for them. Well, 
he wanted it, and wouldn't hear reason. He declared 
he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then 
cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and 
had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to 
prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased. And it 
was true too. I gave him the ivory. What did I care ! 
But I didn't clear out. No, no. I couldn't leave him. 
I had to be careful, of course, till we got friendly again 
for a time. He had his second illness then. Afterwards 
I had to keep out of the way; but I didn't mind. He 
was living for the most part in those villages on the 
lake. When he came down to the river, sometimes he 
would take to me, and sometimes it was better for me 
to be careful. This man suffered too much. He hated 
all thij, and somehow he couldn't get away. When I had 
a chance I begged him to try and leave while there was 
time; I offered to go back with him. And he would 
8^7 7^9 ^ud then he would remain; go off on another 
ivory hunt ; disappear for weeks ; forget himself amongst 
these people — forget himself — ^you know.' * Why ! he's 
mad,' I said. He protested indignantly. Mr. Kurtz 
couldn't be mad. If I had heard him talk, only two 
days ago, I wouldn't dare hint at such a thing. . . . 
I had taken up my binoculars while we talked and 
was looking at the shore, sweeping the limit of the 
forest at each side and at the back of the house. The 

[ 146 ] 


consciousness of there being people in that bush, so silent, 
so quiet — as silent and quiet as the ruined house on the 
hill — ^made me uneasy. There was no sign on the face 
of nature of this amazing tale that was not so much 
told as suggested to me in desolate exclamations, com- 
pleted by shrugs, in interrupted phrases, in hints ending 
in deep sighs. The woods were unmoved, like a mask — - 
heavy, like the closed door of a prison — ^they looked with 
their air of hidden knowledge, of patient expectation, 
of unapproachable silence. The Russian was explaining 
to me that it was only lately that Mr. Kurtz had come 
down to the river, bringing along with him all the fight- 
ing men of that lake tribe. He had been absent for 
several months — getting himself adored, I suppose — and 
had come down unexpectedly, with the intention to all 
appearance of making a raid either across the river or 
down stream. Evidently the appetite for more ivory 
had got the better of the — ^what shall I say? — less ma- 
terial aspirations. However he had got much wOrse 
suddenly. * I heard he was lying helpless, and so I came 
up — ^took my chance,' said the Russian. * Oh, he is 
bad, very bad.' I directed my glass to the house. There 
were no signs of life, but there was the ruined roof, 
the long mud wall peeping above the grass, with three 
little square window-holes, no two of the same size; all 
this brought within reach of my hand, as it were. And 
then I made a brusque movement, and one of the remain- 
ing posts of that vanished fence leaped up in the field 
of my glass. You remember I told you I had been 
struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamenta* 

f 1*7 ] 


tioiu rather remarkable m the ruinous aspect of the place. 
Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result 
was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. 
Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, 
and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not 
ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and 
puzzling, striking and disturbing — food for thought and 
also for the vultures if there had been any looking down 
from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were 
industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would 
have been even more impressive, those heads on the 
stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. 
Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. 
I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back 
I had given was really nothing but a movement of sur- 
prise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you 
know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen — 
and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eye- 
Kds, — a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, 
and, with the shrunken dry Hps showing a narrow white 
line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously 
at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber* 
" I am not disclosing any trade secrets. In fact the 
manager said afterwards that Mr. Kurtz's methods had 
ruined the district. I have no opinion on that point, 
but I want you clearly to understand that there was 
nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. 
They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the 
gratification of his various lusts, that there was some- 
thing wanting in him — some small matter which, when 


the pressing need arose, could not be found under his 
magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this de- 
ficiency himself I can't say. I think the knowledge came 
to him at last — only at the very last. But the wilder- 
ness had foimd him out early, and had taken on him 
a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think 
it had whispered to him things about himself which he 
did not know, things of which he had no conception till 
he took counsel with this great solitude — and the whisper 
had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly 
within him because he was hollow at the core. ... I 
put down the glass, and the head that had appeared 
near enough to be spoken to seemed at once to have 
leaped away from me into inaccessible distance. 

" The admirer of Mr. Kurtz was a bit crestfallen. In 
a hurried, indistinct voice he began to assure me he had 
not dared to take these — say, symbols — down. He was 
not afraid of the natives; they would not stir till Mr. 
Kurtz gave the word. His ascendency was extraor- 
dinary. The camps of these people surrounded the 
place, and the chiefs came every day to see him. They 
would crawl. ... * I don't want to know anything of 
the ceremonies used when approaching Mr. Kurtz,' I 
shouted. Curious, this feeling that came over me that 
such details would be more intolerable than those heads 
drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz's windows. After 
all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one 
bound to have been transported into some lightless 
region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated 
savagery W8U5 a positive relief, being something that had 

[ 149 ] 


a right to exist — obviously — ^in the sunshine. The 
young man looked at me with surprise. I suppose it 
did not occur to him that Mr. Kurtz was no idol of mine. 
He forgot I hadn't heard any of these splendid mono- 
logues on, what was it? on love, justice, conduct of life 
' — or what not. If it h$id come to crawling before Mr. 
Kurtz, he crawled as much as the veriest savage of them 
all. I had no idea of the conditions, he said : these heads 
were the heads of rebels. I shocked him excessively by 
laughing. Rebels ! What would be the next definition 
I was to hear? There had been enemies, criminals, work- 
ers — and these were rebels. Those rebellious heads looked 
very subdued to me on their sticks. * You don't know how 
such a life tries a man like Kurtz,' cried Kurtz's last 
disciple. * Well, and you?' I said. 'I! I! I am a 
simple man. I have no great thoughts. I want nothing 
from anybody. How can you compare me to . . . ? * 
His feelings were too much for speech, and suddenly he 
broke down. * I don't understand,' he groaned. ' I've 
been doing my best to keep him alive, and that's enough. 
I had no hand in all this. I have no abilities. There 
hasn't been a drop of medicine or a mouthful of invalid 
food for months here. He was shamefully abandoned. 
A man like this, with such ideas. Shamefully! 
Shamefully! I — I — ^haven't slept for the last ten 
nights. . . .' 

" His voice lost itself in the calm of the evening. The 
long shadows of the forest had slipped down hill while 
we talked, had gone far beyond the ruined hovel, be- 
yond the symbolic row of stakes. All this was in the 

[ 160] 


gloom, while we down there were yet in the sunshine, 
and the stretch of the river abreast of the clearing 
glittered in a still and dazzling splendor, with a murky 
and over-shadowed bend above and below. Not a living 
soul was seen on the shore. The bushes did not rustle. 

" Suddenly round the corner of the house a group of 
men appeared, as though they had come up from the 
ground. They waded waist-deep in the grass, in a 
compact body, bearing an improvised stretcher in their 
midst. /Instantly, in the emptiness of the landscape, a 
cry arose whose shrillness pierced the still air like a sharp 
arrow flying straight to the very heart of the land ; and, 
as if by enchantment, streams of human beings — of 
naked human beings — ^with spears in their hands, with 
bows, with shields, with wild glances and savage move- 
ments, were poured into the clearing by the dark-faced 
and pensive forest. The bushes shook, the grass swayed 
for a time, and then everything stood still in attentive 
immobility. } 

" * Now, ii he does not say the right thing to them we 
are all done for,' said the Russian at my elbow. The 
knot of men with the stretcher had stopped too, half-way 
to the steamer, as if petrified. I saw the man on the 
stretcher sit up, lank and with an uplifted arm, above 
the shoulders of the bearers. *Let us hope that the 
man who can talk so well of love in general will find 
some particular reason to spare us this time,' I said. I 
resented bitterly the absurd danger of our situation, as 
if to be at the mercy of that atrocious phantom had 
been a dishonoring necessity. I could not hear a sound, 


bat through mj glasses I saw the thin arm extended 
oommandinglj, the lower jaw moving, the eyes of that 
apparition shining darkly far in its bony head that 
nodded with grotesque jerks, Kurtz — ^Kurtz — ^that 
means short in German — don't it? Well, the name was 
as true as everything else in his life — ^and death. He 
looked at least seven feet long. His covering had fallen 
off, and his body emerged from it pitiful and appalling 
as from a winding-sheet. I could see the cage of his 
ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving. It was as 
though an animated image of death carved out of old 
ivory had been shaking its hand with menaces at a 
motionless crowd of men made of dark and glittering 
bronze. I saw him open his mouth wide — ^it gave him 
a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he had wanted to 
swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him. 
A deep voice reached me faintly. He must have been 
shouting. He fell back suddenly. The stretcher shook 
as the bearers staggered forward again, and almost at 
the same time I noticed that the crowd of savages was 
vanishing without any perceptible movement of retreat, 
as if the forest that had ejected these beings so suddenly 
had drawn them in again as the breath is drawn in a 
long aspiration. 

^^ Some of the pilgrims behind the strctdier carried his 
arms — ^two shot-guns, a heavy rifle, and a light revolver- 
carbine — the thunderbolts of that pitiful Jupiter. The 
manager bent over him munnaring as he walked beside 
his head. They laid him down in one of the little oabins 
—just a rocnn for a bed-place and a camp-stxiol 9r two^ 


you know. We had brought his belated. correspondencej 
and a lot of torn envelopes and open letters littered his 
bed. His hand roamed feebly amongst these papers. I 
was struck by the fire of his eyes and' the composed 
languor of his expression. It was not so much the ex- 
haustion of disease. He did not seem in pain. This 
shadow looked satiated and calm, as though for the 
moment it had had its fill of all the emotions. 

** He rustled one of the letters, and looking straight 
in my face said, * I am glad.' Somebody had been writ- 
ing to him about me. These special recommendations 
were turning up again. The volume of tone he emitted 
without effort, almost without the trouble of moving his 
lips, amazed me. A voice ! a voice ! It was grave, pro- 
found, vibrating, while the man did not seem capable 
of a whisper. However, he had enough strength in 
him — factitious no doubt — to very nearly make an end 
of us, as you shall hear directly. 

** The manager appeared silently in the doorway ; I 
stepped out at once and he drew the curtain after me. 
The Russian, eyed curiously by the pilgrims, was star- 
ing at the shore. I followed the direction of his glance. 

^^ Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, 
flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the 
forest, and near the river two bronze figures, leaning 
on tall spears, stood in the sunlight under fantastic head- 
dresses of spotted skins, warlike and still in statuesque 
repose. And from right to left along the lighted shore 
moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman. 

^ She walked with measured steps, draped in striped 

I 168 1 


and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a 
slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She 
carried her head high; her hair was done in the shape 
of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brass 
wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny 
cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck ; 
bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men, that hung 
about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She 
must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon 
her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnifi- 
cent; there was something ominous and stately in her 
deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen 
suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense 
wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mys- 
terious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it 
had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and 
passionate soul. 

" She came abreast of the steamer, stood still, and faced 
us. Her long shadow fell to the water's edge. Her face 
had a tragic and fierce aspect of wild sorrow and of 
dumb pain mingled with the fear of some struggling, 
half -shaped resolve. She stood looking at us without 
a stir and like the wilderness itself, with an air of brood- 
ing over an inscrutable purpose. A whole minute passed, 
and then she made a step forward. There was a low 
jingle, a glint of yellow metal, a sway of fringed draper- 
ies, and she stopped as if her heart had failed her. The 
young feUow by my side growled. The pilgrims mur- 
mured at my back. She looked at us aU as if her life 
had depended upon the unswerving steadiness of htr 

[ 164 1 


glance. Suddenly she opened her bared arms and threw 
them up rigid above her head, as though in an uncon- 
trollable desire to touch the sky, and at the same time 
the swift shadows darted out on the earth, swept around 
on the river, gathering the steamer into a shadowy em- 
brace. A formidable silence hung over the scene. 

" She turned away slowly, walked on, following the 
bank, and passed into the bushes to the left. Once only 
her eyes gleamed back at us in the dusk of the thickets 
before she disappeared. 

" * If she had offered to come aboard I really think I 
would have tried to shoot her,' said the man of patches, 
nervously. * I had been risking my life every day for 
the last fortnight to keep her out of the house. She 
got in one day and kicked up a row about those miser- 
able rags I picked up in the storeroom to mend my clothes 
with. I wasn't decent. At least it must have been that, 
for she talked like a fury to Kurtz for an hour, point- 
ing at me now and then. I don't understand the dia- 
lect of this tribe. Luckily for me, I fancy Kurtz felt 
too ill that day to care, or there would have been mis- 
chief. I don't understand. . . . No — it's too much 
for me. Ah, well, it's all over pow.' 

" At this moment I heard Kurtz's deep voice behind 
the curtain, * Save me ! — save the ivory, you mean. Don't 
tell me. Save met Why, I've had to save you. You 
are interrupting my plans now. Sick! Sick! Not so 
sick 'as you would like to believe. Never mind. I'll 
carry my ideas out yet — I will return. I'll show yoU 
what can be done. You with your little peddling no- 

[ 156 ] 


tions — ^you are interfering with me. I will return. 
I . . .» 

" The manager came out. He did me the honor to 
take me under the arm and lead me aside. ^ He is very 
low, very low,' he said. He considered it necessary to 
sigh, but neglected to be consistently sorrowful. ' We 
have done all we could for him — ^haven't we? But there 
is no disguising the fact, Mr. Kurtz has done more 
harm than good to the Company. He did not see the 
time was not ripe for vigorous action. Cautiously, cau- 
tiously — ^that's my principle. We miist be cautious yet. 
The district is closed to us for a time. Deplorable ! Upon 
the whole, the trade will suffer. I don't deny there is 
a remarkable quantity of ivory — ^mostly fossil. We 'must 
save it, at all events — ^but look how precarious the posi- 
tion is — and why? Because the method is unsound.' 

* Do you,' said I, looking at the shore, * call it " unsound 
method"?' * Without doubt,' he exclaimed, hotly. 

* Don't you? ' . . . * No method at all,' I murmured 
after a while. * Exactly,' he exulted. * I anticipated 
this. Shows a complete want of judgment. It is my 
duty to point it out in the proper quarter.' ' Oh,' said 
I, *that fellow — what's his name? — ^the brickmaker, will 
make a readable report for you.' He appeared con- 
founded for a moment. It seemed to me I had never 
breathed an atmosphere so vile, and I turned mentally 
to Kurtz for relief — ^positively for relief. 'Neverthe- 
less I think Mr. Kurtz is a remarkable man,' I said .with 
emphasis. He started, dropped on me a cold heavy 
glance, said very quietly, * He wo*,' and turned his back 

[ 156] 


on me. My hour of favor was over; I found myself 
lumped aloMg with Kurtz as a partisan of methods for 
which the time was not ripe : I was unsound ! Ah ! but it 
was something to have at least a choice of nightmares. 

"I had turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr. 
Kurtz, who, I was ready to admit, was as good as buried. 
And for a moment it seemed to me as if I also were 
buried in a vast grave full, of unspeakable secrets. I 
felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the 
smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious 
corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night. . . . 
The Russian tapped me on the shoulder. I heard him 
mumbling and stammering something about ^ brother 
seaman — couldn't conceal — ^knowledge of matters that 
would affect Mr. Kurtz's reputation.' I waited. For 
him evidently Mr. Kurtz was not in his grave ; I suspect 
that for him Mr. Kurtz was one of the immortals. 
' Well ! ' said I at last, * speak out. As it happens, I am 
Mr. Kurtz's friend — ^in a way.' 

" He stated with a good deal of formality that had 
we not been * of the same profession,' he would have 
kept the matter to himself without regard to conse- 
quences. * He suspected there was an active ill-will to- 
wards him on the part of these white men that ' 

* You are right,' I said, remembering a certain conversa- 
tion I had overheard. * The manager thinks you ought 
to be hanged.' He showed a concern at this intelligence 
which amused me at first. * I had better get out of the 
way quietly,' he said, earnestly. * I can do no more for 
Kurtz now, and they would soon find some excuse. 

[ IST ] 


What's to stop them? There's a military post three hun- 
dred miles from here.' * Well, upon my word,' said I, 

* perhaps you had better go if you have any friends 
amongst the savages near by.' * Plenty,' he said. * They 
are simple people — and I want nothing, you know.' 
He stood biting his lip, then : * I don't want any harm to 
happen to these whites here, but of course I was think- 
ing of Mr. Kurtz's reputation — ^but you are a brother 
seaman and ' * All right,' said I, after a time. 

* Mr. Kurtz's reputation is safe with me.' I did not 
know how truly I spoke. 

" He informed me, lowering his voice, that it was 
Kurtz who had ordered the attack to be made on the 
steamer. ^ He hated sometimes the idea of being taken 
away — ^and then again. • . . But I don't understand 
these matters. I am a simple man. He thought it would 
scare you away — that you would give it up, thinking 
him dead. I could not stop him. Oh, I had an awful 
time of it this last month.' ' Very well,' I said. * He is 
all right now.' * Ye-e-es,' he muttered, not very con- 
vinced apparently. * Thanks,' said I ; * I shall keep my 
eyes open.' * But quiet — eh? ' he urged, anxiously. * It 

would be awful for his reputation if anybody here ' 

I promised a complete discretion with great gravity. ' I 
have a canoe and three black fellows waiting not very 
far. I am off. Could you give me a few Martini-Henry 
cartridges? ' I could, and did, with proper secrecy. He 
helped himself, with a wink at me, to a handful of my 
tobacco. * Between sailors — ^you know — good English 
tobacco.' At the door of the pilot-house he turned round 


— ^ I say, haven't you a pair of shoes you could spare? * 
He raised one leg. *Look/ The soles were tied with 
knotted strings sandal-wise under his bare feet. I rdoted 
out an old pair, at which he looked with admiration be- 
fore tucking it under his left arm.. One of his pockets 
(bright red) was bulging with cartridges, from the 
other (dark blue) peeped * Towson's Inquiry,' &c., &c. 
He seemed to think himself excellently well equipped 
for a renewed encounter with the wilderness. * Ah ! I'll 
never, never meet such a man again. You ought to 
have heard him recite poetry — ^his own too it was, he told 
me. Poetry ! ' He rolled his eyes at the recollection 
of these delights. * Oh, he enlarged my mind ! ' * Good- 
by,' said I. He shook hands and vanished in the night. 
Sometimes I ask myself whether I had ever really seen 
him — ^whether it was possible to meet such a phenome- 
non! ... 

" When I woke up shortly after midnight his warning 
came to my mind with its hint of danger that seemed, 
in the starred darkness, real enough to make me get 
up for the purpose of having a look round. On the 
hill a big fire burned, illuminating fitfully a crooked 
comer of the station-house. One of the agents with 
a picket of a few of our blacks, armed for the purpose, 
was keeping guard over the ivory; but deep within the 
forest, red gleams that wavered, that seemed to sink and 
rise from the ground amongst confused columnar shapes 
of intense blackness, showed the exact position of the 
camp where Mr. Kurtz's adorers were keeping their un- 
easy vigil. The monotonous beating of a big dnun filled 

[ 169] 


the air with muffled shocks and a lingering vibration. 4 
steidy droning sound of many men chanting each to 
himself some weird incantation came out from the black, 
flat wall of the woods as the humming of bees comes 
out of a hive, and had a strange narcotic effect upon 
my half-awake senses. I believe I dozed off leaning 
over the rail, till an abrupt burst of yells, an over- 
whelming outbreak of a pent-up and mysterious frenzy, 
woke me up in a bewildered wonder. It was cut short 
all at once, and the low droning went on with an effect 
of audible and soothing silence. I glanced casually into 
the little cabin. A light was burning within, but Mr. 
Kurtz was not there. 

" I think I would have raised an outcry if I had be- 
lieved my eyes. But I didn't believe them at first — ^the 
thing seemed so impossible. The fact is I was completely 
unnerved by a sheer blank fright, pure abstract terror, 
unconnected with any distinct shape of physical danger. 
What made this emotion so overpowering was — ^how shall 
I define it? — ^the moral shock I received, as if something 
altogether monstrous, intolerable to thought and odious 
to the soul, had been thrust upon me unexpectedly. This 
lasted of course the merest fraction of a second, and 
then the usual sense of commonplace, deadly danger, the 
possibility of a sudden onslaught and massacre, or some- 
thing of the kind, which I saw impending, was positively 
welcome and composing. It pacified me, in fact, so 
much, that I did not raise an alarm. 

" There was an agent buttoned up inside an ulster 
and sleeping on a chair on deck within three feet of 

[ 160] 


me. The yells had not aw€ikened him; he snored very 
sliightly; I left him to his slumbers and leaped ashore. 
I £d not betray Mr. Kurtz — ^it was ordered I should 
never betray him — ^it was written I should be loyal to 
the nightmare of my choice. I was anxious to deal 
with this shadow by myself alone, — and to this day I 
don't know why I was so jealous of sharing with any- 
one the peculiar blackness of that experience. 

" As soon as I got on the bank I saw a trail — ^a broad 
trail through the grass. I remember the exultation with 
wMch I said to myself, * He can't walk — ^he is crawling 
on all-fours — ^I've got him.' The grass was wet with 
dew. I strode rapidly with clenched fists. I fancy I 
had some vague notion of falling upon him and giving 
him a drubbing. I don't know. I had some imbecile 
thoughts. The knitting old woman with the cat ob< 
truded herself upon my memory as a most impropei 
person to be sitting at the other end of such an afFair, 
I saw a row of pilgrims squirting lead in the air ouf 
of Winchesters held to the hip. I thought I wouW 
never get back to the steamer, and imagined myself 
living alone and unarmed in the woods to an advanced 
age. Such siUy things — you know. And I remember 
I confounded the beat of the drum with the beating of 
my heart, and was pleased at its calm regularity. 

** I kept to the track though — ^then stopped to listen. 
The night was very clear: a dark blue space, sparkling 
with dew and starlight, in which black things stood 
very still. I thought I could see a kind of motion ahead 
of me. I was strangely cocksure of everything that 

[ 161 ] 


ni^ht. I actually left the track and ran in a wide semi- 
circle (I verily believe chuckling to myself) so as to 
get in front of that stir, of that motion I had seen — 
if indeed I had seen anything. I was circumventing 
Kurtz as though it had been a boyish game. 

" I came upon him, and, if he had not heard me coming, 
I would have fallen over him too, but he got up in 
time. He rose, unsteady, long, pale, indistinct, like a 
vapor exhaled by the earth, and swayed slightly, misty 
and silent before me; while at my back the fires loomed 
between the trees, and the murmur of many voices issued 
from the forest. I had cut him off cleverly; but whem 
actually confronting him I seemed to come to my senses, 
I saw the danger in its right proportion. It was by 
no means over yet. Suppose he began to shout ? Though 
he could hardly stand, there was still plenty of vigor 
in his voice. ' Go away — ^hide yourself,' he said, in that 
profound tone. It was very awful. I glanced back. 
We were within thirty yards from the nearest fibre. A 
black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving 
long black arms, across the glow. It had horns — ^ante- 
lope horns, I think — on its head. Some sorcerer, some 
witch-man, no doubt : it looked fiend-like enough. * Do 
you know what you are doing? ' I whispered. ' Per- 
fectly,' he answered, raising his voice for that single 
word: it sounded to me far off and yet loud, like a hail 
through a speaking-trumpet. If he makes a row we 
are lost, I thought to myself. This clearly was not a 
case for fisticuffs, even apart from the very natural 
aversion I had to beat that Shadow — ^this wandering and 

[ 162 ] 


tormented thing. * You will be lost/ I said — ^ utterly 
lost.' One gets sometimes such a flash of inspiration, 
you know. I did say the right thing, though indeed 
he could not have been more irretrievably lost than he 
was at this very moment, when the foundations of our 
intimacy were being laid — ^to endure — ^to endure — even 
to the end — even beyond. 
** ' I had immense plans,' he muttered irresolutely, 

* Yes,' said I ; * but if you try to shout I'll smcish your 

head with ' there was not a stick or a stone near. * I 

will throttle you for good,' I corrected myself. * I was 
on the threshold of great things,' he pleaded, in a voice 
of longing, with a wistfulness of tone that made my 
blood run cold. * And now for this stupid scoundrel * 

* Your success in Europe is assured in any case,' I af- 
firmed, steadily. I did not want to have the throttling 
of him, you understand — ^and indeed it would have been 
very little use for any practical purpose. I tried to 
break the spell — the heavy, mute spell of the wilder- 
ness — ^that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by 
the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the 
memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, 
I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the 
forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb 
of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone 
had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of 
permitted aspirations. And, don't you see, the terror 
of the position was not in being knocked on the head 
— ^though I had a very lively sense of that danger too 
— but in this, that I had to deal with a being to whom 

[ 163 ] 


I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low. 
I had, even like the niggers, to invoke him — ^himself — 
his own exalted and incredible degradation. There was 
nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He 
had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the 
man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was 
alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood 
on the ground or floated in the air. I've been telling 
you what we said — ^repeating the phrases we pronounced, 
— ^but what's the good? They were common everyday 
words, — ^the familiar, vague sounds exchanged on every 
waking day of life. But what of that? They had be- 
hind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of 
words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in night- 
mares. Soul! If anybody had ever struggled with a 
soul, I am the man. And I wasn't arguing with a luna- 
tic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was per- 
fectly clear — concentrated, it is true, upon himself with 
horriblt intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only 
chance — ^barring, of course, the killing him there and 
then, which wasn't so good, on account of imavoidable 
noise. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilder- 
ness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens ! I tell 
you, it had gone mad. I had — for my sins, I suppose — • 
to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No 
eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief 
in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled 
with himself, too. I saw it, — I heard it. I saw the in- 
conceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no 
faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself. I 

[ 164] 


kept my head pretty well; but when I had him at last 
stretched on the couch, I wiped my forehead, while my 
legs shook imder me as though I had carried half a 
ton on my back down that hill. And yet I had only 
supported him, his bony arm clasped round my neck 
^-and he was not much heavier than a child. 

** When next day we left at noon, the crowd, of whose 
presence behind the curtain of trees I had been acutely 
conscious all the time, flowed out of the woods again, 
filled the clearing, covered the slope with a mass of naked, 
breathing, quivering, bronze bodies. I steamed up a 
bit, then swung down-stream, and two thousand eyes 
followed the evolutions of the splashing, thumping, 
fierce river-demon beating the water with its terrible tail 
and breathing black smoke into the air. In front of 
the first rank, along the river, three men, plastered with 
bright red earth from head to foot, strutted to and fro 
restlessly. When we came abreast again, they faced the 
river, stamped their feet, nodded their homed heads, 
swayed their scarlet bodies ; they shook towards the fierce 
river-demon a bunch of black feathers, a mangy skin 
with a pendent tail — ^something that looked like a dried 
gourd; they shouted periodically together strings of 
amazing words that resembled no sounds of human lan- 
guage; and the deep murmurs of the crowd, inter- 
rupted suddenly, were like the response of some satanic 

" We had carried Kurtz into the pilot-house: there was 
more air there. Lying on the couch, he stared through 
the open shutter. There was an eddy in the mass of 

[ 166] 


human bodies, and the woman with hehneted head and 
tawny cheeks rushed out to the very brink of the stream. 
She put out her hands, shouted something, and all that 
wild mob took up the shout in a roaring chorus of 
articulated, rapid, breathless utterance. 

" * Do you understand this? ' I asked. 

" He kept on looking out past me with fiery, longing 
eyes, with a mingled expression of wistfulness and hate. 
He made no answer, but I saw a smile, a smile of inde- 
finable meaning, appear on his colorless lips that a mo- 
ment after twitched convulsively. * Do I not? ' he said 
slowly, gasping, as if the words had been torn out of 
him by a supernatural power. 

" I pulled the string of the whistle, and I did this 
because I saw the pilgrims on deck getting out their 
rifles with an air of anticipating a jolly lark. At the 
sudden screech there was a movement of abject terror 
through that wedged mass of bodies. * Don't ! don't ! 
you frighten them away,' cried someone on deck dis- 
consolately. I pulled the string time after time. They 
broke and ran, they leaped, they crouched, they swerved, 
they dodged the flying terror of the sound. The three 
red chaps had fallen flat, face down on the shore, as 
though they had been shot dead. Only the barbarous 
and superb woman did not so much as flinch, and 
stretched tragically her bare arms after us over the 
somber and glittering river. 

"And then that imbecile crowd down on the deck 
started their little fun, and I could see nothing more 
for smoke. 

[ 166] 


" The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of 
darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice 
the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz's life was 
running swiftly too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart 
into the sea of inexorable time. The manager was very 
placid, he had no vital anxieties now, he took us both 
in with a comprehensive and satisfied glance : the * afi^air ' 
had come off as well as could be wished. I saw the time 
approaching when I would be left alone of the party of 
* unsound method.' The pilgrims looked upon me with 
disfavor. I was, so to speak, numbered with the dead. 
It is strange how I accepted this unforeseen partner- 
ship, this choice of nightmares forced upon me in the 
tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedy phan- 

" Kurtz discoursed. A voice ! a voice ! It rang deep 
to the very last. It survived his strength to hide in 
the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness 
of his heart. Oh, he struggled! he struggled! The 
wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy 
images now — ^images of wealth and fame revolving 
obsequiotisly round his unextinguishable gift of noble 
and lofty expression. My Intended, my station, my 
career, my ideas — ^these were the subjects for the occa- 
sional utterances of elevated sentiments. The shade of 
the original Kurtz frequented the bedside of the hollow 
sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in th« 
mold of primeval earth. But both the diabolic love and 
the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated 
fought for the possession of that soul satiated with 

[ 167 1 


primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham dis- 
tinction, of all the appearances of success and power. 

" Sometimes he was contemptibly childish. He desired 
to have kings meet him at railway-stations on his return 
from some ghastly Nowhere, where he intended to ac- 
complish great things. ^ You show them you have in 
you something that is really profitable, and then there 
will be no limits to the recognition of your ability,' he 
would say. * Of course you must take care of the mo- 
tives — right motives — ^always.' The long reaches that 
Were like one and the same reach, monotonous bends that 
were exactly alike, slipped past the steamer with their 
multitude of secular trees looking patiently after this 
grimy fragment of another world, the forerunner of 
change, of conquest, of trade, of massacres, of blessings. 
I looked ahead — ^piloting. * Close the shutter,' said 
Kurtz suddenly one day ; ' I can't bear to look at this.' 
I did so. There was a silence. ' Oh, but I will wring 
your heart yet ! ' he cried at the invisible wilderness. 

** We broke down — ^as I had expected — and had to lie 
up for repairs at the head of an island. This delay 
was the first thing that shook Kurtz's confidence. One 
morning he gave me a packet of papers and a photo- 
graph, — ^the lot tied together with a shoe-string. * Keep 
this for me,' he said. * This noxious fool' (meaning 
the manager) * is capable of prying into my boxes when 
I am not looking.' In the afternoon I saw him. He 
was lying on his back with closed eves, and I withdrew 
quietly, but I heard him mutter,/' Live rightly, die, 
die • •. ,.' I listened. There wajf nothing more. Was 

[168 1 


he rehearsing some speech in his sleep, or was it a frag- 
ment of a phrase from some newspaper article? He had 
been writing for the papers and meant to do so again, 
* for the furthering of my ideas. It's a duty.' J 

^^ His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him 
as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom 
of a precipice where the sun never shines. But I had 
not much time to give him, because I was helping the 
engine-driver to take to pieces the leaky cylinders, to 
straighten a bent connecting-rod, and in other such 
matters. I lived in an infernal mess of rust, filings, 
nuts, bolts, spanners, hammers, ratchet-drills — ^things I 
abominate, because I don't get on with them. I tended 
the little forge we fortunately had aboard; I toiled 
wearily in a wretched scrap-heap — ^unless I had the 
shakes too bad to stand. 

" One evening coming in with a candle I was startled 
to hear him say a little tremulously, v I am lying here 
in the dark waiting for death.^ The light was within 
a foot of his eyes. I forced myself to murmur, ' Oh, 
nonsense ! ' and stood over him as if transfixed. 

*^ Anything approaching the change that came over 
his features I have never seen before, and hope never 
to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. 
It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that 
ivory face the expression of somber pride^ of ruthless 
power, of craven terror — of an inteni^ and hopeless 
despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of 
desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme 
moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper 

t 169 ] 


at some image, at some vision, — ^he cried out twice, a 
cry that was no more than a breath — 

" ' The horror ! The horror ! ' 

" I blew the candle out and left the cabin. The pil- 
grims were dining in the mess-room, and I took my 
place opposite the manager, who lifted his eyes to give 
me a questioning glance, which I successfully ignored. 
He leaned back, serene, with that peculiar smile of his 
sealing the unexpressed depths of his meanness. A con- 
tinuous shower of small flies streamed upon the lamp, 
upon the cloth, upon our hands and faces. Suddenly 
the manager's boy put his insolent black head in the 
doorway, and said in a tone of scathing contempt — 

" * Mistah Kurtz— he dead.' 

** All the pilgrims rushed out to see. I remained, and 
went on with my dinner. I believe I was considered 
brutally callous. However, I did not eat much. There 
was a lamp in there — ^light, don't you know — ^and outside 
it was so beastly, beastly dark. I went no more near 
the remarkable man who had pronounced a judgment 
upon the adventures of his soul on this earth. The 
voice was gone. What else had been there? But I am 
of course aware that next day the pilgrims buried some- 
thing in a muddy hole. 

" And then they very nearly buried me. 

" However, as you see, I did not go to join Kurtz 
there and then. I did not. I remained to dream the 
nightmare out to the end, and to show my loyalty to 
Kurtz once more. Destiny. My destiny ! Droll thing 
life is — ^that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic 

E 170 ] 


for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it 
is some knowledge of yourself — ^that comes too late — ^a 
crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with 
death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. 
It takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing 
underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, 
without clamor, without glory, without the great desire 
of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly 
atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without much belief in 
your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. 
If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a 
greater riddle than some of us think it to be. I was 
within a hair's-breadth of the last opportunity for pro- 
nouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably 
I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I 
affirm that Evuiz was a remarkable man. He had some- 
thing to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the 
edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his 
stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was 
wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing 
enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the dark- 
ness. He had summed up — ^he had judged. * The 
horrol*!' He was a remarkable man. After all, this 
was the expression of some sort of belief ; it had candor, 
it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its 
whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth 
— ^the strange commingling of desire and hate. And it 
is not my own extremity I remember best — ^a vision of 
grayness without form filled with physical pain, and a 
careless contempt for the evanescence of all things — even 

[ 171 ] 


of this pain itself. No ! It is his extremity that I seem 
to have lived through. True, he had made that last 
stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been 
permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. And per- 
haps in this is the whole difference ; perhaps all the wis- 
dom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed 
into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step 
over the threshold of the invisible. Perhaps ! I like to 
think my summing-up would not have been a word of 
careless contempt. Better his cry — ^much better. It was 
an affirmation, a moral victory paid for by innumerable 
defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfac- 
tions. But it was a victory! That is why I have re- 
mained loyal to Kurtz to the last, and even beyond, 
when a long time after I heard once more, not his own 
voice, but the echo of his magnificent eloquence thrown 
to me from a soul as translucently pure as a cliff of 

" No, they did not bury me, though there is a period 
of time which I remember mistily, with a shuddering 
wonder, like a passage through some inconceivable world 
that had no hope in it and no desire. I found myself 
back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people 
hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from 
each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp 
their unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant and 
silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They 
were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an 
irritating pretense, because I felt so sure they could 
not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, 

r. 172 ] 


which was simply the bearing of commonplace ;ndivlduals 
going about their business in the assurance of perfect 
safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flaunt- 
ings of folly in the face of a danger it is imable to 
comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten 
them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself 
from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid impor- 
tance. I dare say I was not very well at that time. I 
tottered about the streets — there were various affairs to 
settle — grinning bitterly at perfectly respectable per- 
sons. I admit my behavior was inexcusable, but then my 
temperature was seldom normal in these days. My dear 
aunt's endeavors to * nurse up my strength ' seemed alto- 
gether beside the mark. It was not my strength that 
wanted nursing, it was my imagination that wanted 
soothing. I kept the bundle of papers given me by 
Kurtz, not knowing exactly what to do with it. His 
mother had died lately, watched over, as I was told, by 
his Intended. A clean-shaved man, with an official 
manner and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, called on 
me one day and made inquiries, at first circuitous, after- 
wards suavely pressing, about what he was pleased to 
denominate certain * documents.' I was not surprised, 
because I had had two rows with the manager on the 
subject out there. I had refused to give up the smallest 
scrap out of that package, and I took the same attitude 
with the spectacled man. He became darkly menacing 
at last, and with much heat argued that the Company 
had the right to every bit of information about its ' ter- 
ritories.' And, said he, * Mr. Kurtz's knowledge of 

[ ITS ] 


unexplored regions must have been necessarily extensive 
and peculiar — owing to his great abilities and to the 
deplorable circumstances in which he had been placed: 

therefore ' ^I assured him Mr. Kurtz's knowledge, 

however extensive, did not bear upon the problems of 
commerce or administration. He invoked then the name 
of science. * It would be an incalculable loss if,' &c., &c. 
I offered him the report on the ' Suppression of Savage 
Customs,' with the postscriptum torn off. He took it 
up eagerly, but ended by sniffing at it with an air of 
contempt. * This is not what we had a right to expect,' 
he remarked^ * Expect nothing else,' I said. * There 
are only private letters.' He withdrew upon some threat 
of legal proceedings, and I saw him no more; but an- 
other fellow, calling himself Kurtz's cousin, appeared 
two days later, and was anxious to hear all the details 
about his dear relative's last moments. Incidentally he 
gave me to understand that Kurtz had been essentially 
a great musician. * There was the making of an im- 
mense success,' said the man, who was an organist, I 
believe, with lank gray hair flowing over a greasy coat- 
coUar. I had no reason to doubt his statement; and to 
this day I am unable to say what was Kurtz's pro- 
fession, whether he ever had any — ^which was the greatest 
of his talents. I had taken him for a painter who wrote 
for the papers, or else for a journalist who could paint 
—•but even the cousin (who took snuff during the inter- 
view) could not tell me what he had been — exactly. He 
was a universal genius — on that point I agreed with the 
old chap, who thereupon blew his nose noisily into a 

[ 174 ] 


large cotton handkerchief and withdrew in senile agita- 
tion, bearing off some family letters and memoranda 
without importance. Ultimately a journalist anxious to 
know something of the fate of his * dear colleague ' 
turned up. This visitor informed me Kurtz's proper 
sphere ought to have been politics * on the popular side.' 
He had furry straight eyebrows, bristly hair cropped 
short, an eye-glass on a broad ribbon, and, becoming 
expansive, confessed his opinion that Kurtz really 
couldn't write a bit — * but heavens ! how that man could 
talk! He electrified large meetings. He had faith — 
don't you see? — ^he had the faith. He could get himself 
to believe anything — ^anything. He would have been 
a splendid leader of an extreme party.' * What party? ' 
I asked. * Any party,' answered the other. * He was 
an — an — extremist.' Did I not think so? I assented. 
Did I know, he asked, with a sudden flash of curiosity, 
* what it was that had induced him to go out there? ' 
^ Yes,' said I, and forthwith handed him the famous 
Report for publication, if he thought fit. He glanced 
through it hurriedly, miunbling all the time, judged ^ it 
would do,' and took himself off with this plunder. 
" Thus I was left at last with a slim packet of letters 
and the girl's portrait. She struck me as beautiful — 
I mean she had a beautiful expression. I know that the 
sunlight can be made to lie too, yet one felt that no 
manipulation of light and pose could have conveyed the 
delicate shade of truthfulness upon those features. She 
seemed ready to listen without mental reservation, with- 
out suspicion, without a thought for herself. I con- 


eluded I would go and give her back her portrait and 
those letters myself. Curiosity? Yes; and also some 
other feeling perhaps. All that had been Kurtz's had 
passed out of my hands: his soul, his body, his station, 
his plans, his ivory, his career. There remained only 
his memory and his Intended — and I wanted to give that 
up too to the past, in a way, — ^to surrender personally 
all that remained of him with me to that oblivion which 
is the last word of our common fate. I don't defend 
myself. I had no clear perception of what it was I 
really wanted. Perhaps it was an impulse of uncon- 
scious loyalty, or the fulfillment of one of these ironic 
necessities that lurk in the facts of human existence. 
I don't know. I can't tell. But I went. 

** I thought his memory was like the other memories 
of the dead that accumulate in every man's life, — ^a vague 
impress on the brain of shadows that had fallen on it 
in their swift and final passage ; but before the high and 
ponderous door, between the tall houses of a street as 
still and decorous as a well-kept alley in a cemetery, I 
had a vision of him on the stretcher, opening his mouth 
voraciously, as if to devour all the earth with all its 
mankind. He lived then before me; he lived as much 
as he had ever lived — a shadow insatiable of splendid 
appearances, of frightful realities ; a shadow darker than 
the shadow of the night, and draped nobly in the folds 
of a gorgeous eloquence. The vision seemed to enter 
the house with me — ^the stretcher, the phantom-bearers, 
the wild crowd of obedient worshipers, the gloom of the 
forests, the glitter of the reach between the murky bends^ 

[ 176] 


the beat of the drum, regular and muffled like the beat'- 
ing of a heart — ^the heart of a conquering darkness. It 
was a moment of trimnph for the wilderness, an invad- 
ing and vengeful rush which, it seemed to me, I would 
have to keep back alone for the salvation of another 
soul. And the memory of what I had heard him say 
afar there, with the homed shapes stirring at my back, 
in the glow of fires, within the patient woods,, those 
broken phrases came back to me, were heard again in 
their ominous and terrifying simplicity. I remembered 
his abject pleading, his abject threats, the colossal scale 
of his vile desires, the meanness, the torment, the tem- 
pestuous anguish of his soul. And later on I seemed to 
see his collected languid manner, when he said one day, 
*This lot of ivory now is really mine. The Company 
did not pay for it, I collected it myself at a very great 
personal risk. I am afraid they will try to claim it as 
theirs though. H'm. It is a difficult case. What do 
you think I ought to do — ^resist? Eh? I want no more 
than justice.' . . . He wanted no more than justice — 
no more than justice. I rang the bell before a mahogany 
door on the first floor, and while I waited he seemed to 
stare at me out of the glassy panel — ^stare with that wide 
and immense stare embracing, condemning, loathing all 
the universe. I seemed to hear the whispered cry, * The 
horror ! The horror ! ' . 

" The dusk was falling. I had to wait in a lofty draw- 
ing-room with three long windows from floor to ceiling 
that were like three Imninous and bedraped columns. 
The bent gilt legs and backs of the furniture shone in 



indistinct curves. The tall marble fireplace had a cold 
and monumental whiteness. A grand piano stood mas- 
sively in a comer, with dark gleams on the flat sur- 
faces like a somber and polished sarcophagus. A high 
door opened — closed. I rose. 

" She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, 
floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning. 
It was more than a year since his death, more than a 
year since the news came; she seemed as though she 
would remember and mourn for ever. She took both 
my hands in hers and murmured, * I had heard you 
were coming.' I noticed she was not very young — ^I 
mean not girlish. She had a mature capacity for fidelity, 
for belief, for suffering. The room seemi^'J to have 
grown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy 
evening had taken refuge on her forehead. This fair 
hair, this pale visage, this pure brow, sfiemed surrounded 
by an ashy halo from which the dark eyes looked out at 
me. Their glance was guileless, profound, confident, and 
trustful. She carried her sorrowful head as though she 
were proud of that sorrow, as though she would say, I 
— I alone know how to mourn for him as he deserves. 
But while we were still shaking hands, such as look of 
awful desolation came upon her face that I perceived she 
was one of those creatures that are not the playthings 
of Time. For her he had died only yesterday. And, 
by Jove ! the impression was so powerful that for me too 
he seemed to have died only yesterday — nay, this very 
minute. I saw her and him in the same instant of time 
-'—his death and her sorrow — I saw her sorrow in the 


very moment of his death. Do you understand? I saw 
them together — I heard them together. She had said, 
with a deep catch of the breath, * I have survived ; ' while 
my strained ears seemed to hear distinctly, mingled with 
her tone of despairing regret, the summing-up whisper 
of his eternal condemnation. I asked myself what I 
was doing there, with a sensation of panic in my heart 
as though I had blundered into a place of cruel and 
absurd mysteries not fit for a human being to behold. 
She motioned me to a chair. We sat down. I laid the 
packet gently on the Uttle table, and she put her hand 
over it. ... ^ You knew him well,' she murmured, 
after a moment of mourning silence. 

" * Intimacy grows quick out there,' I said. * I knew 
him as well as it is possible for one man to know another.' 

" ' And you admired him,' she said. * It was impossible 
to know him and not to admire him. Was it.'' ' 

" * He was a remarkable man,' I said, unsteadily. Then 
before the appealing fixity of her gaze, that seemed to 
watch for more words on my lips, I went on, * It was 
impossible not to ' 

" ' Love him,' she finished eagerly, silencing me into 
an appalled dumbness. ' How true ! how true ! But 
when you think that no one knew him so well as I! I 
had all his noble confidence. I knew him best.' 

" * You knew him best,' I repeated. And perhaps she 
did. But with every word spoken the room was growing 
darker, and only her forehead, smooth and white, re- 
mained illumined by the unextinguishable light of belief 
and love* 

[ 179 ] 


•* * You were his friend,' she went on. * His friend,' 
she repeated, a little louder. ^ You must have been, if 
he had given you this, and sent you to me. I fed I 
can speak to you — ^and oh! I must speak. I want you 
—you who have heard his last words — ^to know I have 
been worthy of him. ... It is not pride. . • . Yes ! 
I am proud to know I understood him better than any- 
one on earth — ^he told me so himself. And since his 
mother died I have had no one — ^no one — to— to ^ 

" I listened. The darkness deepened. I was not even 
sure whether he had given me the right bundle. I rather 
suspect he wanted me to take care of another batch of 
his papers which, after his death, I saw the manager 
examining under the lamp. And the girl talked, easing 
her pain in the certitude of my sympathy ; she talked as 
thirsty men drink. I had heard that her engagement 
with Kurtz had been disapproved by her people. He 
wasn't rich enough or something. And indeed I don't 
know whether he had not been a pauper all his life. He 
had given me some reason to infer that it was his im- 
patience of comparative poverty that drove him out 

" *. . . Who was not his friend who had heard him 
speak once? ' she was saying. * He drew men towards 
him by what was best in them.' She looked at me with 
intensity. * It is the gift of the great,' she went on, 
and the sound of her low voice seemed to have the ac- 
companiment of all the other sounds, full of mystery, 
desolation, and sorrow, I had ever heard — ^the ripple of 
the river, the soughing of the trees swayed by the wind, 

[ 180] 


the murmurs of wild crowds, the faint ring of incom- 
prehensible words cried from afar, the whisper of a 
voice speaking from beyond the threshold of an eternal 
darkness. ' But you have heard him ! You know ! ' she 

" ' Yes, I know,' I said with something like despair 
in my heart, but bowing my head before the faith that 
was in her, before that great and saving illusion that 
shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness, in the 
triumphant darkness from which I could not have de- 
fended her — from which I could not even defend 

" * What a loss to me — ^to us ! ' — she corrected herself 
with beautiful generosity ; then added in a murmur, * To 
the world.' By the last gleams of twilight I could see 
the glitter of her eyes, full of tears — of tears that would 
not fall. 

" * I have been very happy — ^very fortunate — ^very 
proud,' she went on. * Too fortunate. Too happy for 
a little while. And now I am unhappy for — for 

" She stood up ; her fair hair seemed to catch all the 
remaining light in a glimmer of gold. I rose too. 

" * And of all this,' she went on, mournfully, ' of all his 
promise, and of all his greatness, of his generous mind, 
of his noble heart, nothing remains — ^nothing but a 
memory. You and I ' 

" * We shall always remember him,' I said, hastily. 

** * No ! ' she cried. * It is impossible that all this should 
be lost — ^that such a life should be sacrificed to leave 



nothing — ^but sorrow. You know what vast plans he 
had. I knew of them too — ^I could not perhaps under- 
stand, — ^but others knew of them. Something must re- 
main. His words, at least, have not died.' 

" * His words will remain,' I said. 

** * And his example,' she whispered to herself. * Men 
looked up to him, — ^his goodness shone in every act. His 
example ' 

ti < True,' I said ; * his example too. Yes, his example. 
I forgot that.' 

" * But I do not. I cannot — ^I cannot believe — not yet. 
I cannot believe that I shall never see him again, that 
nobody will see him again, never, never, never.' 

" She put out her arms as if after a retreating figure, 
stretching them black and with clasped pale hands across 
the fading and narrow sheen of the window. Never see 
him! I saw him clearly enough then. I shall see this 
eloquent phantom as long as I live, and I shall see her 
too, a tragic and familiar Shade, resembling in this ges- 
ture another one, tragic also, and bedecked with power- 
less charms, stretching bare brown arms over the glitter 
of the infernal stream, the stream of darkness. She said 
suddenly very low, * He died as he lived.' 

***His end,' said I, with dull anger stirring in me, 
'^was in every way worthy of his life.' 

** * And I was not with him,' she murmured. My anger 
subsided before a feeling of infinite pity. 

'* * Everything that could be done ' I mum))led. 

" * Ah, but I believed in him more than anyone on 
earth — ^more than his own mother, more than — ^himself. 

[ 182] 


He needed me ! Me ! I would have treasured every sigh, 
every word, every sign, every glance.' 

" I felt like a chill grip on my chest. * Don't,' I said, 
in a muffled voice. 

" * Forgive me. I — I — ^have mourned so long in silence 
— in silence. . . . You were with him — ^to the last? 
I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand 
him as I would have understood. Perhaps no one to 
hear, . . .' 

" * To the very end,' I said, shakily. * I heard his very 
last words, . . .' I stopped in a fright. 

"* Repeat them,* she murmured in a heart-broken tone. 
*I want — ^I want — ^something — something — ^to — to live 

" I was on the point of crying at her, * Don't you hear 
them?' The dusk was repeating them in a persistent 
whisper all around us, in a whisper that seemed to swell 
menacingly like the first whisper of a rising wind. * The 
horror ! the horror ! ' 

"*His last word — ^to live with,' she insisted. * Don't 
you understand I loved him — ^I loved him — ^I loved him ! ' 

" I pulled myself together and spoke slowly. 

" * The last word he pronounced was — ^your name.' 

" I heard a light sigh, and then my heart stood still, 
stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by 
the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable 
pain. * I knew it — ^I was sure ! ' . . . She knew. She. 
was ^ure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her 
face in her hands. It seemed to me that the house would 
collapse before I could escape, that the heavens wouW 

[ 18i ] 


fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The 
heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have ' 
fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice 
which was his due? Hadn't he said he wanted only jus- 
tice? But I couldn't. I could not tell her. It would 
have been too dark — ^too dark altogether. ..." 

Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in 
the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a 
time. " We have lost the first of the ebb," said the Di- 
rector, suddenly. I raised my head. The oiBng wa* 
barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water- 
way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed 
somber under an overcast sky — seemed to lead into the 
heart of an immense darknese. 













For a long time after the course of the steamer Sofala 
had been altered for the land, the low swampy coast had 
retained its appearance of a mere smudge of darkness 
beyond a belt of glitter. The sunrays fell violently 
upon the calm sea — seemed to shatter themselves upon 
an adamantine surface into sparkling dust, into a dazz- 
ling vapor of light that blinded the eye and wearied the 
brain with its unsteady brightness. 

Captain Whalley did not look at it. When his 
Serang, approaching the roomy cane arm-chair which 
he filled capably, had informed him in a low -roice that 
the course was to be altered, he had risen at once and 
had remained on his feet, face forward, while the head 
of his ship swung through a quarter of a circle. He 
had not uttered a single word, not even the word to 
steady the helm. It was the Serang, an elderly, alert, 
little Malay, with a very dark skin, who murmured the 
order to the helmsman. And then slowly Captain 
Whalley sat down again in the arm-chair on the bridge 
and fixed his eyes on the deck between his feet. 

He could not hope to see anything new upon this lane 
of the sea. He had been on these coasts for the last 
three years. From Low Cape to Malantan the distance 
was fifty miles, six hours' steaming for the old ship with 

[ 187 ]. 


the tide, or seven against. Then you steered straight 
for the land, and by-and-by three pahns would appear 
on the sky, tall and slim, and with their disheveled heads 
in a bunch, as if in confidential criticism of the dark 
mangroves. The Sofala would be headed towards the 
somber strip of the coast, which at a given moment, as 
the ship closed with it obliquely, would show several 
clean shining fractures — the brimful estuary of a river. 
Then on through a brown liquid, three parts water and 
one part black earth, on and on between the low shores, 
three parts black earth and one part brackish water, the 
Sofala would plow her way up-stream, as she had 
done once every month for these seven years or more, 
long before he was aware of her existence, long before 
he had ever thought of having anything to do with her 
and her invariable voyages. The old ship ought to have 
known the road better than her men, who had not been 
kept so long at it without a change; better than the 
faithful Serang, whom he had brought over from his 
last ship to keep the captain's watch; better than he 
himself, who had been her captain for the last three 
years only. She could always be depended upon t9 
make her courses. Her compasses were never out. She 
was no trouble at all to take about, as if her great age 
had given her knowledge, wisdom, and steadiness. She 
made her landfalls to a degree of the bearing, and al- 
most to a minute of her allowed time. At any moment, 
as he sat on the bridge without looking up, or lay sleep- 
less in his bed, simply by reckoning the days and the 
hours he could tell where he was — ^the precise spot of the 

[ 188 ] 

►*■ — - . 


beat. He knew it well too, this monotonous huckster's 
round, up and down the Straits ; he knew its order and 
its sights and its people. Malacca to begin with, in at 
daylight and out at dusk, to cross over with a rigid 
phosphorescent wake this highway of the Far East. 
Darkness and gleams on the water, clear stars on a black 
sky, perhaps the lights of a home steamer keeping her 
unswerving course in the middle, or maybe the elusive 
shadow of a native craft with her mat sails flitting by 
silently — ^and low land on the other side in sight 
at daylight. At noon the tlrfee palms of the next place 
of call, up a sluggish river. The only white man re- 
siding there was a retired young sailor, with whom he 
had become friendly in the course of many voyages. 
Sixty miles farther on there was another place of call, 
a deep bay with only a couple of houses on the beach. 
And so on, in and out, picking up coastwise cargo here 
and there, and finishing with a hundred miles' steady 
steaming through the maze of an archipelago of small 
islands up to a large native town at the end of the beat. 
There was a three days' rest for the old ship before 
he started her again in inverse order, seeing the same 
shores from another bearing, hearing the same voices in 
the same places, back-again to the SofaWs port of regis- 
try on the great highway to the East, where he would 
take up a berth nearly opposite the big stone pile of 
the harbor office till it was time to start again on the 
old round of 1600 miles and thirty days. Not a very 
enterprising life, this, for Captain Whalley, Henry 
Whalley, otherwise Dare-devil Harry — ^Whalley of the 

C 189] 


Condor, a famous clipper in her day. No. Not a very 
enterprising life for a man who had served famous firmsf 
who had sailed famous ships (more than one or two of 
them his own) ; who had made famous passages, had 
been the pioneer of new routes and new trades ; who had 
steered across the unsurveyed tracts of the South Seas> 
and had seen the sun rise on uncharted islands. Fifty 
years at sea, and forty out in the East ("a pretty thor- 
ough apprenticeship," he used to remark smilingly), had 
made him honorably known to a generation of ship- 
owners and merchants in all the ports from Bombay clear 
over to where the East merges into the West upon the 
coast of the two Americas. His fame remained writ, 
not very large but plain enough, on the Admiralty 
charts. Was there not somewhere between Australia 
and China a Whalley Island and a Condor Reef .^ On 
that dangerous coral formation the celebrated clipper 
had hung stranded for three days, her captain and crew 
throwing her cargo overboard with one hand and with 
the other, as it were, keeping off her a flotilla of savage 
war-canoes. At that time neither the island nor the reef 
had any official existence. Later the officers of her 
Majesty's steam vessel Fusilier j dispatched to make a 
survey of the route, recognized in the adoption of these 
two names the enterprise of the man and the solidity of 
the ship. Besides, as anyone who cares may see, the 
" General Directory," vol. ii. p. 410, begins the descrip- 
tion of the " Malotu or Whalley Passage " with the 
words : " This advantageous route, first discovered in 
1860 by Captain Whalley in the ship Condor,** &c., 

[ 190 ] 


and ends by recommending it warmly to sailing vessels 
leaving the China ports for the south in the months 
from December to April inclusive. 

This was the clearest gain he had out of life. Nothing 
could rob him of this kind of fame. The piercing of the 
Isthmus of Suez, like the breaking of a dam, had let 
in upon the East a flood of new ships, new men, new 
methods of trade. It had changed the face of the East- 
em seas and the very spirit of their life; so that his 
early experiences meant nothing whatever to the new 
generation of seamen. 

In those bygone days he had handled many thousands 
of pounds of his employers' money and of his own; he 
had attended faithfully, as by law a shipmaster is ex- 
pected to do, to the conflicting interests of owners, 
charterers, and underwriters. He had never lost a ship 
or consented to a shady transaction; and he had lasted 
well, outlasting in the end the conditions that had gone 
to the making of his name. He had buried his wife (in 
the Gulf of Petchili), had married off his daughter to 
the man of her unlucky choice, and had lost more than 
an ample competence in the crash of the notorious Tra- 
vancore and Deccan Banking Corporation, whose down- 
fall had shaken the East like an earthquake. And he 
v&s fiiztyHseven years old. 


His age sat lightly enough on him; and of his ruin 
he was not ashamed. He had not been alone to believe 
in the stability of the Banking Corporation. Men whose 

[ 191 ] 


judgment in matters of finance was as expert as his sea* 
manship had commended the prudence of his invest- 
ments, and had themselves lost much money in the great 
failure. The only difference between him and them was 
that he had lost his all. And yet not his all. There 
had remained to him from his lost fortune a very pretty 
little bark, Fair Maid, which he had bought to occupy 
his leisure of a retired sailor — ^^ to play with," as he ex- 
pressed it himself. 

He had formally declared himself tired of the sea the 
year preceding his daughter's marriage. But after the 
young couple had gone to settle in Melbourne he found 
out that he could not make himself happy on shore. He 
was too much of a merchant sea-captain for mere yacht- 
ing to satisfy him. He wanted the illusion of affairs; 
and his acquisition of the Fair Maid preserved the con- 
tinuity of his life. He introduced her to his acquaint- 
ances in various ports as "my last command." When 
he grew too old to be trusted with a ship, he would 
lay her up and go ashore to be buried, leaving directions 
in his will to have the bark towed out and scuttled 
decently in deep water on the day of the funeral. His 
daughter would not grudge him the satisfaction of 
knowing that no stranger would handle his last command 
after him. With the fortune he was able to leave her, 
the value of a 600-ton bark was neither here nor there. 
All this would be said with a jocular twinkle in his eye: 
the vigorous old man had too much vitality for the sen- 
timentalism of regret; and a little wistfully withal, be- 
tause he was at home in life, taking asgenuine pleasure 

[ 192 ] 


in its feelings and its possessions ; in the dignity of his 
reputation and his wealth, in his love for his daughter, 
and in his satisfaction with the ship — ^the plaything of 
his lonely leisure. 

He had the cabin arranged in accordance with his 
simple ideal of comfort at sea. A big bookcase (he was 
a great reader) occupied one side of his stateroom; the 
portrait of his late wife, a flat bituminous oil-painting 
representing the profile and one long black ringlet of 
a young woman, faced his bedplace. Three chronometers 
ticked him to sleep and greeted him on waking with 
the tiny competition of their beats. He rose at five every 
day. The oflScer of the morning watch, drinking his 
early cup of coffee aft by the wheel, would hear through 
the wide orifice of the copper ventilators all the splash- 
ings, blowings, and splutterings of his captain's toilet. 
These noises would be followed by a sustained deep 
murmur of the Lord's Prayer recited in a loud earnest 
voice. Five minutes afterwards the head and shoulders 
of Captain Whalley emerged out of the companion- 
hatchway. Invariably he paused for a while on the 
stairs, looking all round at the horizon ; upwards at the 
trim of the sails; inhaling deep draughts of the fresh 
air. Only then he would step out on the poop, acknowl- 
edging the hand raised to the peak of the cap with a 
majestic and benign " Good morning to you." He 
walked the deck till eight scrupulously. Sometimes, not 
above twice a year, he had to use a thick cudgel-like 
stick on account of a stiffness in the hip — a slight touch 
of rheumatism, he supposed. Otherwise he knew nothing 

[ 193] 


of the ills of the flesh. At the ringing of the breakfast 
bell he went below to feed his canaries, wind up the 
ehronometersi and take the head of the table. From 
there he had before his eyes the big carbon photographs 
of his daughter, her husband, and two fat-legged babies 
—his grandchildren — set in black frames into the maple- 
wood bulkheads of the cuddy. After breakfast he dusted 
the glass over these portraits himself with a cloth, and 
brushed the oil painting of his wife with a plummet kept 
suspended from a small brass hook by the side of the 
heavy gold frame. Then with the door of his state- 
room shut, he would sit down on the couch under the 
portrait to read a chapter out of a thick pocket Bible 
— ^her Bible. But on some days he only sat there for 
half an hour with his finger between the leaves and the 
closed book resting on his knees. Perhaps he had re- 
membered suddenly how fond of boat-sailing she used 

to be. 
She had been a real shipmate and a true woman too. 

It was like an article of faith with him that there never 
had been, and never could be, a brighter, cheerier home 
anywhere afloat or ashore than his home under the poop- 
deck of the Condor, with the big main cabin all white 
and gold, garlanded as if for a perpetual festival with 
an unfading wreath. She had decorated the center of 
every panel with a cluster of home flowers. It took her 
a twelvemonth to go round the cuddy with this labor 
of love. To him it had remained a marvel of painting, 
the highest achievement of taste and skill; and as to 
old Swinburne, his mate, every time he came down to 

[ 194 ] 


his meals he stood transfixed with admiration before the 
progress of the work. You could almost smell these 
roses, he declared, sniffing the faint flavor of turpentine 
which at that time pervaded the saloon, and (as he con- 
fessed afterwards) made him somewhat less hearty than 
usual in tackling his food. But there was nothing of 
the sort to interfere with his enjoyment of her singing. 
** Mrs. Whalley is a regular out-and-out nightingale, 
sir," he would pronounce with a judicial air after listen- 
ing profoundly over the skylight to the very end of the 
piece. In fine weather, in the second dog-watch, the two 
men could hear her trills and roulades going on to the 
accompaniment of the piano in the cabin. On the very 
day they got engaged he had written to London for the 
instnmfient; but they had been married for over a year 
before it reached them, coming out round the Cape. 
The big case made part of the first direct general cargo 
landed in Hongkong harbor — ^an event that to the men 
who walked the busy quays of to-day seemed as hazily 
remote as the dark ages of history. But Captain Whal- 
ley could in a half hour of solitude ^live again all his 
life, with its romance, its idyl, and its sorrow. He had 
to close her eyes himself. She went away from under 
the ensign like a sailor's wife, a sailor herself at heart. 
He had read the service over her, out of her own prayer- 
book, without a break in his voice. When he raised his 
eyes he could see old Swinburne facing him with his cap 
pressed to his breast, and his rugged, weather-beaten, 
impassive face streaming with drops of water like a 
lump of chipped red granite in a shower. It was all 

[ 196 ] 


very well for that old sea-dog to cry. He had to read 
on to the end ; but after the splash he did not remember 
much of what happened for the next few days. An 
elderly sailor of the crew, deft at needlework, put to- 
gether a mourning frock for the child out of one of 
her black skirts. 

He was not likely to forget; but you cannot dam up 
life like a sluggish stream. It will break out and flow 
over a man's troubles, it will close upon a sorrow like 
the sea upon a dead body» no matter how much love has 
gone to the bottom. And the world is not bad. People 
had been very kind to him ; especially Mrs. Gardner, the 
wife of the senior partner in Gardner, Patteson, & Co., 
the owners of the Condor. It was she who volunteered 
to look after the little one, and in due course took her 
to England (something of a journey in those days, 
even by the overland mail route) with her own girls to 
finish her education. It was ten years before he saw her 

As a little child she had never been frightened of bad 
weather; she would beg to be taken up on deck in the 
bosom of his oilskin coat to watch the big seas hurling 
themselves upon the Condor. The swirl and crash of the 
waves seemed to fill her small soul with a breathless de- 
light. " A good boy spoiled," he used to say of her in 
joke. He had named her Ivy because of the sound of 
the word, and obscurely fascinated by a vague associa- 
tion of ideas. She had twined herself tightly round his 
heart, and he intended her to cling close to her father as 
to a tower of strength ; forgetting, while she wais little, 



that in the nature of things she would probably elect 
to cling to someone else. But he loved life well enough 
for even that event to give him a certain satisfaction, 
apart from his more intimate feeling of loss. 

After he had purchased the Fair Maid to occupy his 
loneliness, he hastened to accept a rather unprofitable 
freight to Australia simply for the opportunity of seeing 
his daughter in her own home. What made him dis- 
satisfied there was not to see that she clung now to some- 
body else, but that the prop she had selected seemed on 
closer exaniination " a rather poor stick " — even in the 
matter of health. He disliked his son-in-law's studied 
civility perhaps more than his method of handling the 
sum of money he had given Ivy at her marriage. But 
of his apprehensions he said nothing. Only on the day 
of his departure, with the hall-door open all ready, hold- 
ing her hands and looking steadily into her eyes, he 
had said, " You know, my dear, all I have is for you and 
the chicks. Mind you write to me openly." She had 
answered him by ^.n almost imperceptible movement of 
her head. She resembled her mother in the color of her 
eyes, and in character — ^and also in this, that she under- 
stood him without many words. 

Sure enough she had to write ; and some of these letters 
made Captain Whalley lift his white eye-brows. For 
the rest he considered he was reaping the true reward of 
his life by being thus able to produce on demand what- 
ever was needed. He had not enjoyed himself so much 
in a way since his wife had died. Characteristically 
enough his son-in-law's punctuality in failure caused him 

£ 197 ] 


at a distance to feel a sort of kindness towards the man. 
The fellow was so perpetually being jammed on a lee 
shore that to charge it all to his reckless navigation 
would be manifestly unfair. No, no! He knew well 
what that meant. It was bad luck. His own had been 
simply marvelous, but he had seen in his life too many 
good men — seamen and others — ^go under with the sheer 
weight of bad luck not to recognize the fatal signs. For 
all that, he was cogitating on the best way of tying up 
very strictly every penny he had to leave, when, with a 
preliminary rumble of rumors (whose first sound reached 
him in Shanghai as it happened), the shock of the big 
failure came; and, after passing through the phases of 
stupor, of incredulity, of indignation, he had to accept 
the fact that he had nothing to speak of to leave. 

Upon that, as if he had only waited for this catas- 
trophe, the unlucky man, away there in Melbourne, gave 
up his unprofitable game, and sat down — ^in an invalid's 
bath-chair at that too. " He will never walk again," 
wrote the wife. For the first time in his life Captain 
Whalley was a bit staggered. 

The Fair Maid had to go to work in bitter earnest now. 
It was no longer a matter of preserving alive the memory 
of Dare-devil Harry Whalley in the Eastern Seas, or 
of keeping an old man in pocket-money and clothes, with, 
perhaps, a bill for a few hundred first-class cigars 
thrown in at the end of the year. He would have to 
buckle-to, and keep her going hard on a scant allowance 
of gilt for the ginger-bread scrolls at her stem and 

[ 198 1 


This necessity opened his eyes to the fundamental 
changes of the world. Of his past only the familiar 
names remained, here and there, but the things and the 
men, as he had known them, were gone. The name of 
Gardner, Patteson, & Co. was still displayed on the 
walls of warehouses by the waterside, on the brass plates 
and window-panes in the business quarters of more than 
one Eastern port, but there was no longer a Gardner 
or a Patteson in the firm. There was no longer for Cap- 
tain Whalley an arm-chair and a welcome in the private 
office, with a bit of business ready to be put in the way 
of an old friend, for the sake of bygone services. The 
husbands of the Gardner girls sat behind the desks in 
that room where, long after he had left the employ, he 
had kept his right of entrance in the old man's time. 
Their ships now had yellow funnels with black tops, 
and a time-table of appointed routes like a confounded 
service of tramways. The winds of December and June 
were all one to them; their captains (excellent young 
men he doubted not) were, to be sure, familiar with 
Whalley Island, because of late years the Government 
had established a white fixed light on the north end (with 
a red danger sector over the Condor Reef), but most of 
them would have been extremely surprised to hear that 
a flesh-and-blood Whalley still existed — ^an old man 
going about the world trying to pick up a cargo here 
and there for his little bark. 

And everywhere it was the same. Departed the men 
who would have nodded appreciatively at the mention 
•f his name, and would have thought themselves bound 



in honor to do something for Dare-devil Harry Whafley. 
Departed the opportunities which he would have known 
how to seize ; and gone with them the white-winged flock 
of clippers that lived in the boisterous uncertain life of 
the winds, skimming big fortunes out of the foam of 
the sea. In a world that pared down the profits to an 
irreducible minimum, in a world that was able to count 
its disengaged tonnage twice over every day, and in 
which lean charters were snapped up by cable three 
months in advance, there were no chances of fortune for 
an individual wandering haphazard with a little bark 
— ^hardly indeed any room to exist. 

He found it more difficult from year to year. He suf- 
fered greatly from the smallness of remittances he was 
able to send his daughter. Meantime he had given up 
good cigars, and even in the matter of inferior cheroots 
limited himself to six a day. He never told her of his 
difilculties, and she never enlarged upon her struggle 
to live. Their confidence in each other needed no ex- 
planations, and their perfect understanding endured 
without protestations of gratitude or regret. He would 
have been shocked if she had taken it into her head to 


thank him in so many words, but he found it perfectly 
natural that she should tell him she needed two hundred 

He had come in with the Fair Maid in ballast to look 
for a freight in the SofaWs port of registry, and her 
letter met him there. Its tenor was that it was no use 
mincing matters. Her only resource was in opening a 
boarding-house, for which the prospects, she judged, 

£ «oo ] 


were good. Good enough, at any rate, to make her tell 
him frankly that with two hundred pounds she could 
make a start. He had torn the envelope open, hastily, 
on deck, where it was handed to him by the ship- 
chandler's runner, who had brought his mail at the mo- 
ment of anchoring. For the second time in his life he 
was appalled, and remained stock-still at the cabin door 
with the paper trembling between his fingers. Open a 
boarding-house ! Two hundred pounds for a start ! The 
only resource! And he did not know where to lay his 
hands on two hundred pence. 

All that night Captain Whalley walked the poop of 
his anchored ship, as though he had been about to close 
with the land in thick weather, and uncertain of his 
position after a run of many gray days without a sight 
of sun, moon, or stars. The black night twinkled with 
the guiding lights of seamen and the steady straight 
lines of lights on shore; and all around the Fair Maid 
the riding lights of ships cast trembling trails upon the 
water of the roadstead. Captain Whalley saw not .a 
gleam anywhere till the dawn broke and he found out 
that his clothing was soaked through with the heavy 

His ship was awake. He stopped short, stroked his \\^ 
wet beard, and descended the poop ladder backwards, 
with tired feet. At the sight of him the chief officer, 
lounging about sleepily on the quarterdeck, remained 
open-mouthed in tJae middle of a great early-morning 

Grood morning to you," pronounced Captain Whal- 

[ 201 ] 



ley solemnly, passing into the cabin. But he checked 
himself in the doorway, and without looking back, " By 
the bye," he said, "there should be an empty wooden 
case put away in the lazarette. It has not been broken 
up — ^has it? " 

The mate shut his mouth, and then asked as if dazed, 
"What empty case, sir?" 

^^ A big flat packing-case belonging to that painting in 
my room. Let it be taken up on deck and tell the 
carpenter to look it over. I may want to use it before 

The chief officer did not stir a limb till he had heard 
the door of the captain's state-room slam within the 
cuddy. Then he beckoned aft the second mate with his 
forefinger to tell him that there was something " in the 

When the bell rang Captain Whalley's authoritative 
voice boomed out through a closed door, " Sit down and 
don't wait for me." • And his impressed officers took their 
places, exchanging looks and whispers across the table. 
What! No breakfast? And after apparently knock- 
ing about all night on deck, too! Clearly, there was 
something in the wind. In the skylight above their 
heads, bowed earnestly over the plates, three wire cages 
rocked and rattled to the restless jumping of the hungry 
canaries ; and they could detect the sounds of their ^^ old 
man's " deliberate movements within his state-room. Cap- 
tain Whalley was methodically winding up the chro- 
nometers, dusting the portrait of his late wife, getting 
a dean white shirt out of the drawers, making himself 


ready in his punctilious unhurried manner to go ashore. 
He could not have swallowed a single mouthful of food 
that morning. He had made up his mind to sell the 
Fair Maid. 


Just at that time the Japanese were casting far and 
wide for ships of European build, and he had no diffi- 
culty in finding a purchaser, a speculator who drove a 
hard bargain, but paid cash down for the Fair Maid, 
with a view to a profitable resale. Thus it came about 
that Captain Whalley found himself on a certain after- 
noon descending the steps of one of the most important 
post-offices of the East with a slip of bluish paper in his 
hand. This wajs the receipt of a registered letter en- 
closing a draft for two hundred pounds, and addressed 
to Melbourne. Captain Whalley pushed the paper into 
his waistcoat-pocket, took his stick from under his arm, 
and walked down the street. 

It was a recently opened and untidy thoroughfare with 
rudimentary side-walks and a soft layer of dust cushion- 
ing the whole width of the road. One end touched the 
slummy street of Chinese shops near the harbor, the other 
drove straight on, without houses, for a couple of miles, 
through patches of jungle-like vegetation, to the yard 
gates of the new Consolidated Docks Company. The 
crude frontages of the new Grovernment buildings alter- 
nated with the blank fencing of vacant plots, and the 
view of the sky seemed to give an added spaciousness to 
the broad vista. It was empty and shunned by natives 

[ 203 ] 


after business hours, as though they had expected to 
see one of the tigers from the neighborhood of the New 
Waterworks on the hill coming at a loping canter down 
the middle to get a Chinese shopkeeper for supper. Cap- 
tain Whalley was not dwarfed by the solitude of the 
grandly planned street. He had too fine a presence for 
that. He was only a lonely figure walking purposefully, 
with a great white beard like a pilgrim, and with a thick 
stick that resembled a weapon. On one side the new 
Courts of Justice had a low and unadorned portico of 
squat columns half concealed by a few old trees left in 
the approach. On the other the paviUon wings of the 
new Colonial Treasury came out to the line of the street. 
But Captain Whalley, who had now no ship and no 
home, remembered in passing that on that very site 
when he first came out from England there had stood a 
fishing village, a few mat huts erected on piles between 
a muddy tidal creek and a miry pathway that went 
writhing into a tangled wilderness without any docks or 

No shij) — no home. And his poor Ivy away there had 
no home either. A boarding-house is no sort of home 
though it may get you a living. His feelings were 
horribly rasped by the idea of the boarding-house. In 
his rank of life he had that truly aristocratic tempera- 
ment characterized by a scorn of vulgar gentility and 
by prejudiced views as to the derogatory nature of cer- 
tain occupations. For his own part he had always pre- 
ferred sailing merchant ships (which is a straight- 
forward occupation) to buying and selling merchandise, 



of which the essence is to get the better of somebody in a 
bargain — an undignified trial of wits at best. His father 
had been Colonel Whalley (retired) of the H. E. I. Com- 
pany's service, with very slender means besides his pen- 
sion, but with distinguished connections. He could re- 
member as a boy how frequently waiters at the inns, coun- 
try tradesmen and small people of that sort, used to ^^ My 
lord " the old warrior on the strength of his appear- 

Captain Whalley himself (he would have entered the 
Navy if his father had not died before. he was fourteen) 
had sometliing of a grand air which would have suited 
an old and glorious admiral; but he became lost like a 
straw in the eddy of a brook amongst the swarm of 
brown and yellow humanity filling a thoroughfare, that 
by contrast with the vast and empty avenue he had left 
seemed as narrow as a lane and absolutely riotous with 
Ufe. The walls of the houses were blue; the shops of 
the Chinamen yawned like cavernous lairs; heaps of 
nondescript merchandise overflowed the gloom of the 
long range of arcades, and the fiery serenity of sunset 
took the middle of the street from end to end with a 
glow like the reflection of a fire. It fell on the bright 
colors and the dark faces of the bare-footed crowd, on 
the pallid yellow backs of the half -naked jostling coolies, 
on the accouterments of a tall Sikh trooper with a 
parted beard and fierce mustaches on sentry before the 
gate of the police compound. Looming very big above 
the heads in a red haze of dust, the tightly packed car 
of the cable tramway navigated cautiously up the bu' 

[ 805 ] 


man stream, with the incessant blare of its horn, in the 
manner of a steamer groping in a fog. 

Captain Whalley emerged like a diver on the other 
side, and in the desert shade between the walls of closed 
warehouses removed his hat to cool his brow. A certain 
disrepute attached to the calling of a landlady of a 
boarding-house. These women were said to be rapacious, 
unscrupulous, untruthful; and though he contemned no 
class of his fellow-creatures — Grod forbid! — ^these were 
suspicions to which it was unseemly that a Whalley 
should lay herself open. He had not expostulated with 
her, however. He was confident she shared his feelings ; 
he was sorry for her; he trusted her judgment; he con- 
sidered it a merciful dispensation that he could help her 
once more, — ^but in his aristocratic heart of hearts he 
would have found it more easy to reconcile himself to the 
idea of her turning seamstress. Vaguely he remembered 
reading years ago a touching piece called the " Song of 
the Shirt." It was all very well making songs about 
poor women. The granddaughter of Colonel Whalley, 
the landlady of a boarding-house ! Pooh ! He replaced 
his hat, dived into two pockets, and stopping a moment 
to apply a flaring match to the end of a cheap cheroot, 
blew an embittered cloud of smoke at a world that could 
hold such surprises. 

Of one thing he was certain — ^that she was the own 
child of a clever mother. Now he had got over the 
wrench of parting with his ship, he perceived clearly 
that such a step had been unavoidable. Perhaps he had 
been growing aware of it all along with an unconfessed 

[ 206 ] 


knowledge. But she, far away there, must have had 
an intuitive perception of it, with the pluck to face that 
truth and the courage to speak out — all the qualities 
which had made her mother a woman of such excellent 

It would have had to come to that in the end ! It was 
fortunate she had forced his hand. In another year or 
two it would have been an utterly barren sale. To keep 
the ship going he had been involving himself deeper 
every year. He was defenseless before the insidious work 
of adversity, to whose more open assaults he could pre- 
sent a firm front; like a cliff that stands unmoved the 
open battering of the sea, with a lofty ignorance of the 
treacherous backwash undermining its base. As it was, 
every liability satisfied, her request answered, and owing 
no man a penny, there remained to him from the pro- 
ceeds a sum of five hundred pounds put away safely. In 
addition he had upon his person some forty odd dollars 
—enough to pay his hotel bill, providing he did not 
linger too long in the modest bedroom where he had 
taken refuge. 

Scantily furnished, and with a waxed floor, it opened 
into one of the side-verandas. The straggling building 
of bricks, as airy as a bird-cage, resounded with the 
incessant flapping of rattan screens worried by the wind 
between the white-washed square pillars of the sea-front. 
The rooms were lofty, a ripple of sunshine flowed over 
the ceilings ; and the periodical invasions of tourists from 
some passenger steamer in the harbor flitted through the 
wind-swept dusk of the apartments with the tumult of 



their unfamiliar voices and impermanent presences, like 
relays of migratory shades condemned to speed headlong 
round the earth without leaving a trace. The babble 
of their irruptions ebbed out as suddenly as it had arisen ; 
the draughty corridors and the long chairs of the ve- 
randas knew their sight-seeing hurry or their prostrate 
repose no more; and Captain Whalley, substantial and 
dignified, left wellnigh alone in the vast hotel by each 
light-hearted skurry, felt more and more like a stranded 
tourist with no aim in view, like a forlorn traveler with- 
out a home. In the solitude of his room he smoked 
thoughtfully, gazing at the two sea-chests which held all 
that he could call his own in this world. A thick roll of 
charts in a sheath of sailcloth leaned in a corner; the 
flat packing-case containing the portrait in oils and 
the three carbon photographs had been pushed under 
the bed. He was tired of discussing terms, of assisting 
at surveys, of all the routine of the business. What to 
the other parties was merely the sale of a ship was to 
him a momentous event involving a radically new view of 
existence. He knew that after this ship there would 
be no other ; and the hopes of his youth, the exercise ef 
his abilities, every feeling and achievement of his man- 
hood, had been indissolubly connected with ships. He 
had served ships; he had owned ships; and even the 
years of his actual retirement from the sea had been made 
bearable by the idea that he had only to stretch out his 
hand fidl of money to get a ship. He had been at 
liberty to feel as though he were the owner of all the 
ehips in the world. The selling of this one was weary 



work; but when she passed from him at last, when he 
signed the last receipt, it was as though all the ships 
had gone out of the world together, leaving him on the 
shore of inaccessible oceans with seven hundred pounds 
in his hands. 

Striding firmly, without haste, along the quay, Captain 
Whalley averted his glances from the familiar roadstead. 
Two generations of seamen bom since his first day at 
sea stood between him and all these ships at the anchor- 
age. His own was sold, and he had been asking him- 
self. What next? 

From the feeling of loneliness, of inward emptiness, 
— and of loss too, as if his very soul had been taken 
out of him forcibly, — ^there had sprung at first a desire 
to start right off and join his daughter. " Here are the 
last pence," he would say to her; " take them, my dear. 
And here's your old father : you must take him too." 

His soul recoiled, as if afraid of what lay hidden at 
the bottom of this impulse. Give up! Never! When 
one is thoroughly weary all sorts of nonsense come into 
one's head. A pretty gift it would have been for a poor 
woman — ^this seven hundred pounds with the incumbrance 
of a hale old fellow more than likely to last for years 
and years to come. Was he not as fit to die in harness 
as any of the youngsters in charge of these anchored 
ships out yonder? He was as solid now as ever he had 
been. But as to who would give him work to do, that 
was another matter. Were he, with his appearance and 
antecedents, to go about looking for a junior's berth, 
people^ he was afraid, would not take him seriously; or 



else if he succeeded in impressing them, he would mayb^ 
obtain their pity, which would be like stripping your- 
self naked to be kicked. He was not anxious to give 
himself away for less than nothing. He had no use 
for anybody's pity. On the other hand, a command — 
the only thing he could try for with due regard for 
conunon decency — ^was not likely to be lying in wait for 
him at the comer of the next street. Commands don't 
go a-begging nowadays. Ever since he had come ashore 
to carry out the business of the sale he had kept his 
ears open, but had heard no hint of one being vacant 
in the port. And even if there had been one, his suc- 
cessful past itself stood in his way. He had been his 
own employer too long. The only credential he could 
produce was the testimony of his whole life. What 
better recommendation could anyone require? But 
vaguely he felt that the unique document would be 
looked upon as an archaic curiosity of the Eastern 
waters, a screed traced in obsolete words— in a half-for- 
gotten language. 


Revolving these thoughts, he strolled on near the rail- 
ings of the quay, broad-chested, without a stoop, as 
though his big shoulders had never felt the burden of 
the loads that must be carried between the cradle and 
the grave. No single betraying fold or line of care 
disfigured the reposeful modeling of his face. It was 
full and untanned; and the upper part emerged, mas- 
sively quiet, out of the downward flow of silvery hair, 

[ 210 1 


with the striking delicacy of its clear complexion and 
the powerful width of the forehead. The first cast of 
his glance fell on you candid and swift, like a boy's; 
but because of the ragged snowy thatch of the eyebrows 
the affability of his attention acquired the character of 
a keen and searching scrutiny. With age he had put 
on flesh a little, had increased his girth like an old tree 
presenting no symptoms of decay ; and even the opulent, 
lustrous ripple of white hairs upon his chest seemed an 
attribute of unquenchable vitaHty and vigor. 

Once rather proud of his great bodily strength, and 
even of his personal appearance, conscious of his worth, 
and firm in his rectitude, there had remained to him, 
Hke the heritage of departed prosperity, the tranquil 
bearing of a man who had proved himself fit in every 
sort of way for the Kfe of his choice. He strode on 
squarely under the projecting brim of an ancient Panama 
hat. It had a low crown, a crease through its whole 
diameter, a narrow black ribbon. Imperishable and a 
little discolored, this headgear made it easy to pick him 
out from afar on thronged wharves and in the busy 
streets. He had never adopted the comparatively modern 
fashion of pipeclayed cork helmets. He disliked the 
form; and he hoped he could manage to keep a cool 
head to the end of his life without all these contrivances 
for hygienic ventilation. His hair was cropped close, 
his lin^ always of immaculate whiteness ; a suit of thin 
gray flannel, worn threadbare but scrupulously brushed, 
floated about his burly limbs, adding to his bulk by the 
looseness of its cut. The years had mellowed the good- 



humored, imperturbable audacity of his prime into a 
temper carelessly serene; and the leisurely tapping of 
his iron-shod stick accompanied his footfalls with a self- 
confident sound on the flagstones. It was impossible to 
connect such a fine presence and this unruffled aspect 
with the belittling troubles of poverty ; the man's whole 
existence appeared to pass before you, facile and large, 
in the freedom of means as ample as the clothing of his 

The irrational dread of having to break into his five 
hundred pounds for personal expenses in the hotel dis- 
turbed the steady poise of his mind. There was no 
time to lose. The bill was running up. He nourished 
the hope that this five hundred would perhaps be the 
means, if everything else failed, of obtaining some work 
which, keeping his body and soul together (not a matter 
of great outlay), would enable him to be of use to his 
daughter. To his mind it was her own money which he 
employed, as it were, in backing her father and solely 
for her benefit. Once at work, he would help her with 
the greater part of his earnings ; he was good for many 
years yet, and this boarding-house business, he argued 
to himself, whatever the prospects, could not be much of 
a gold-mine from the first start. But what work? He 
was ready to lay hold of anything in an honest way so 
that it came quickly to his hand; because the five hun- 
dred pounds must be preserved intact for eventual use. 
That was the great point. With the entire five hundred 
one felt a substance at one's back ; but it seemed to him 
that should he let it dwindle to four-fifty or even four- 

[ 212 1 



eighty, all the eflBciency would be gone out of the money, 
as though there were some magic power in the round 
figure. But what sort of work? 

Confronted by that haunting question as by an uneasy 
ghost, for whom he had no exorcising formula, Captain 
Whalley stopped short on the apex of a small bridge 
spanning steeply the bed of a canalized creek with 
granite shores. Moored between the square blocks a sea- 
going Malay prau floated half hidden under the arch 
of masonry, with her spars lowered down, without a sound 
of life on board, and covered from stem to stem with a 
ridge of palm-leaf mats. He had left behind him the 
overheated pavements bordered by the stone frontages 
that, like the sheer face of cliffs, followed the sweep 
of the quays ; and an unconfined spaciousness of orderly 
and sylvan aspect opened before him its wide plots of 
rolled grass, like pieces of green carpet smoothly pegged 
out, its long ranges of trees lined up in colossal porticos 
of dark shafts roofed with a vault of branches. 

Some of these avenues ended at the sea. It was a ter- 
raced shore; and beyond, upon the level expanse, pro- 
found and glistening like the gaze of a dark-blue eye, 
an oblique band of stippled purple lengthened itself in- 
definitely through the gap between a couple of verdant 
twin islets. The masts and spars of a few ships far 
away, hull down in the outer roads, sprang straight from 
the water in a fine maze of rosy lines penciled on the 
clear shadow of the eastern board. Captain Whalley 
gave them a long glance. The ship, once his own, was 
anchored out there. It was staggering to think that it 

[ 213 ] 



was open to him no longer to take a boat at the jettj 
and get himself pulled off to her when the evening came. 
To no ship. Perhaps never more. Before the sale was 
concluded, and till the purchase-money had been paid, 
he had spent daily some time on board the Fair Maid. 
The money had been paid this very morning, and now, 
all at once, there was positively no ship tliat he could 
go on board of when he liked; no ship that would need 
his presence in order to do her work — ^to live. It seemed 
an incredible state of affairs, something too bizarre to 
last. And the sea was full of craft of all sorts. There 
was that prau lying so still swathed in her shroud of 
sewn palm-leaves — she too had her indispensable man. 
They lived through each other, this Malay he had never 
seen, and this high-sterned thing of no size that seemed 
to be resting after a long journey. And of all the ships 
in sight, near and far, each was provided with a man, 
the man without whom the finest ship is a dead thing, 
a floating and purposeless log. 

After his one glance at the roadstead he went on, since 
there was nothing to turn back for, and the time must 
be got through somehow. The avenues of big trees ran 
straight over the Esplanade, cutting each other at di- 
verse angles, columnar below and luxuriant above. The 
interlaced boughs high up there seemed to slumber; not 
a leaf stirred overhead : and the reedy cast-iron lamp- 
posts in the middle of the road, gilt like scepters, 
diminished in a long perspective, with their globes of 
white porcelain atop, resembling a barbarous decoration 
of ostriches' eggs displayed in a row. The flaming sky 

[ 214 ] 


kindled a tiny cnmson spark upon the glistening sur- 
face of each glassy shell. 

With his chin sunk a little, his hands behind his back, 
and the end of his stick marking the gravel with a faint 
wavering line at his heels. Captain WhaUey reflected 
that if a ship without a man was like a body without 
a soul, a sailor without a ship was of not much more 
account in this world than an aimless log adrift upon the 
sea. The log might be sound enough by itself, tough 
of fiber, and hard to destroy — but what of that ! And 
a sudden sense of irremediable idleness weighted his feet 
like a great fatigue. 

A succession of open carriages came bowling along the 
newly opened sea-road. You could see across the wide 
grass-plots the discs of vibration made by the spokes. 
The bright domes of the parasols swayed lightly out- 
wards like full-blown blossoms on the rim of a vase ; and 
the quiet sheet of dark-blue water, crossed by a bar of 
purple, made a background for the spinning wheels and 
the high action of the horses, whilst the turbaned heads 
of the Indian servants elevated above the line of the sea 
horizon glided rapidly on the paler blue of the sky. In 
an open space near the little bridge each turn-out trotted 
smartly in a wide curve away from the sunset ; then pull- 
ing up sharp, entered the main alley in a long slow- 
moving file with the great red stillness of the sky at 
the back. The trunks of mighty trees stood all touched 
with red on the same side, the air seemed aflame under 
the high foliage, the very ground under the hoofs of the 
horses was red. The wheels turned solemnly ; one after 


another the sunshades drooped, folding their colors lite 
gorgeous flowers shutting their petals at the end of the 
day. In the whole half-mile of human beings no voice 
uttered a distinct word, only a faint thudding noise went 
on mingled with slight jingling sounds, and the motion- 
less heads and shoulders of men and women sitting in 
couples emerged stolidly above the lowered hoods — ^as if 
wooden. But one carriage and pair coming late did not 
join the line. 

It fled along in a noiseless roll; but on entering the 
avenue one of the dark bays snorted, arching his neck 
and shying against the steel-tipped pole; a flake of 
foam fell from the bit upon the point of a satiny shoul- 
der, and the dusky face of the coachman leaned for- 
ward at once over the hands taking a fresh grip of the 
reins. It was a long dark-green landau, having a digni- 
fied and buoyant motion between the sharply curved 
C-springs, and a sort of strictly official majesty in its 
supreme elegance. It seemed more roomy than is usual, 
its horses seemed slightly bigger, the appointments a 
shade more perfect, the servants perched somewhat 
higher on the box. The dresses of three women — ^two 
young and pretty, and one, handsome, large, of mature 
age — seemed to fill completely the shallow body of the 
carriage. The fourth face was that of a man, heavy 
lidded, distinguished and sallow, with a somber, thick, 
iron-gray imperial and mustaches, which somehow had 
the air of solid appendages. His Excellency 

The rapid motion of that one equipage made all the 
others appear utterly inferior, blighted, and reduced to 

[ 216 1 


crawl painfully at a snail's pace. The landau distanced 
the whole file in a sort of sustained rush; the features 
of the occupants whirling out of sight left behind an 
impression of fixed stares and impassive vacancy; and 
after it had vanished in full flight as it were, notwith- 
stanisiing the long line of vehicles hugging the curb at 
a walk, the whole lofty vista of the avenue seemed to lie 
open and emptied of life in the enlarged impression of 
an august solitude. 

Captain Whalley had lifted his head to look, and his 
mind, disturbed in its meditation, turned with wonder 
(as men's minds will do) to matters of no importance. 
It struck him that it was to this port, where he had 
just sold his last ship, that he had come with the very 
first he had ever owned, and with his head full of a plan 
for opening a new trade with a distant part of the 
Archipelago. The then governor had given him no end 
of encouragement. No Excellency he — ^this Mr. Den- 
ham — ^this governor with his jacket ofi^; a man who 
tended night and day, so to speak, the growing pros- 
perity of the settlement with the self -forgetful devotion 
of a nurse for a child she loves; a lone bachelor who 
lived as in a camp with the few servants and his three 
dogs in what was called then the Government Bungalow : 
a low-roofed structure on the half -cleared slope of a 
hill, with a new flagstaff in front and a police orderly 
on the veranda. He remembered toiling up that hill 
under a heavy sun for his audience; the unfurnished 
aspect of the cool shaded room; the long table covered 
at one end with piles of papers, and with two guns, a 

[ an I 


brass telescope, a small bottle of oil with a feather stuck 
in the neck at the other — ^and the flattering attention 
given to him by the man in power. It was an under- 
taking full of risk he had come to expound, but a twenty 
minutes' talk in the Government Bungalow on the hill 
had made it go smoothly from the start. And as he 
was retiring Mr. Denham, already seated before the 
papers, called out after him, " Next month the Dido 
starts for a cruise that way, and I shall request her 
captain officially to give you a look in and see how 
you get on.'* The Dido was one of the smart frigates on 
the China station — and five-and-thirty years make a big 
slice of time. Five-and-thirty years ago an enterprise 
like his had for the colony enough importance to be 
looked after by a Queen's ship. A big slice of time. 
Individuals were of some account then. Men like him- 
self ; men, too, like poor Evans, for instance, with his 
red face, his coal-black whiskers, and his restless eyes, 
who had set up the first patent slip for repairing small 
ships, on the edge of the forest, in a lonely bay three 
miles up the coast. Mr. Denham had encouraged that 
enterprise too, and yet somehow poor Evans had ended 
by dying at home deucedly hard up. His son, they said, 
was squeezing oil out of cocoa-nuts for a living on some 
God-forsaken islet of the Indian Ocean ; but it was from 
that patent slip in a lonely wooded bay that had sprung 
the workshops of the Consolidated Docks Company, with 
its three graving basins carved out of solid rock, its 
wharves, its jetties, its electric-light plant, its steam- 
power houses — ^with its gigantic sheer-legs, fit to lift the 

t 818 3 


heaviest weight ever carried afloat, and whose head could 
be seen like the top of a queer white monument peeping 
over bushy points of land and sandy promontories, as 
you approached the New Harbor from the west. 

There had been a time when men counted: there were 
not so many carriages in the colony then, though Mt. 
Benham, he fancied, had a buggy. And Captain Whal-J 
ley seemed to be swept out of the great avenue by the 
swirl of a mental backwash. He remembered muddy 
shores, a harbor without quays, the one solitary wooden 
pier (but that was a public work) jutting out crookedly, 
the first coal-sheds erected on Monkey PoiAt, that caught 
fire mysteriously and smoldered for days, so that 
amazed ships came into a roadstead full of sulphurous 
fog, and the sun hung blood-red at midday. He re- 
membered the things, the faces, and something more 
besides — ^like the faint flavor of a cup quaffed to the 
bottom, like a subtle sparkle of the air that was not 
to be found in the atmosphere of to-day. 

In this evocation, swift and full of detail like a flash 
of magnesium light into the niches of a dark memorial 
hall. Captain Whalley contemplated things once impor- 
tant, the efl^orts of small men, the growth of a great 
place, but now robbed of all consequence by the great- 
ness of accomplished facts, by hopes greater still; and 
they gave him for a moment such an almost physical 
grip upon time, such a comprehension of our unchange- 
able feelings, that he stopped short, struck the ground 
with his stick, and ejaculated mentally, " What the devil 
am I doing here ! *' He seemed lost in a sort of surprise ; 

[ 219 ] 


3ne of Captain Eliott's outbreaks was nearly as distaste- 
ful to face as a chance of annihilation. 

As soon as he had come up quite close he said, mouth- 
ing in a growl — 

" What's this I hear, Whalley? Is it true you're sell- 
ing the Fair Maidf " 

Captain Whalley, looking away, said the thing was 
done — money had been paid that morning ; and the other 
expressed at once his approbation of such an extremely 
sensible proceeding. He had got out of his trap to 
stretch his legs, he explained, on his way home to dinner. 
Sir Frederick looked well at the end of his time. Didn't 
Captain Whalley could not say; had only noticed the 
carriage going past. 

The Master-Attendant, plunging his hands into the 
pockets of an alpaca jacket inappropriately short and 
tight for a man of his age and appearance, strutted 
with a slight limp, and with his head reaching only to 
the shoulder of Captain Whalley, who walked easily, 
staring straight before him. They had been good com- 
rades years ago, almost intimates. At the time when 
Whalley commanded the renowned Condor^ Eliott had 
charge of the nearly as famous Ringdove for the same 
owners ; and when the appointment of Master- Attendant 
was created, Whalley would have been the only other 

[ 221 ] 


serious candidate. But Captain Whalley, then in th« 
prime of life, was resolved to serve no one but his own 
auspicious Fortune. Far away, tending his hot irons, 
he was glad to hear the other had been successful. There 
was a worldly suppleness in bluff Ned Eliott that would 
serve him well in that sort of official appointment. And 
they were so dissimilar at bottom that as they came 
slowly to the end of the avenue before the Cathedral, it 
had never come into Whalley*s head that he might have 
been in that man's place — ^provided for to the end of 
his days. 

The sacred edifice, standing in solemn isolation amongst 
the converging avenues of enormous trees, as if to put 
grave thoughts of heaven into the hours of ease, pre- 
sented a closed Gothic portal to the light and glory of 
the west. The glass of the rosace above the ogive glowed 
like fiery coal in the deep carvings of a wheel of stone. 
The two men faced about. 

" I'll tell you what they ought to do next, Whalley," 
growled Captain Eliott suddenly. 


" They ought to send a real live lord out here when 
Sir Frederick's time is up. Eh.? " 

Captain Whalley perfunctorily did not see why a lord 
of the right sort should not do as well as anyone else. 
But this was not the other's point of view. 

" No, no. Place runs itself. Nothing can stop it now. 
Good enough for a lord," he growled in short sentences. 
" Look at the changes in our own time. We need a lord 
here now. They have got a lord in Bombay." 

[ 222 ] 


He dined once or twice every year at the Government 
House — ^a many-windowed, arcaded palace upon a hill 
laid out in roads and gardens. And lately he had been 
taking about a duke in his Master-Attendant's steam- 
launch to visit the harbor improvements. Before that 
he had " most obligingly " gone out in person to pick 
out a good berth for the ducal yacht. Afterwards he 
had an invitation to lunch on board. The duchess her- 
self lunched with them. A big woman with a red face. 
Complexion quite sunburnt. He should think ruined. 
Very gracious manners. They were going on to 
Japan. . . . 

He ejaculated these details for Captain Whalley's edi- 
fication, pausing to blow out his cheeks as if with a 
pent-up sense of importance, and repeatedly protruding 
his thick lips till the blunt crimson end of his nose seemed 
to dip into the milk of his mustache. The place ran 
itself ; it was fit for any lord ; it gave no trouble except 
in its Marine department — in its Marine department, he 
repeated twice, arid after a heavy snort began to relate 
how the other day her Majesty's Consul-General in 
French Cochin-China had cabled to him — in his ofiicial 
capacity — asking for a qualified man to be sent over 
to take charge of a Glasgow ship whose master had died 
in Saigon. 

" I sent word of it to the officers' quarters in the Sailors' 
Home," he continued, while the limp in his gait seemed 
*x) grow more accentuated with the increasing irritation 

)f his voice. " Place's full of them. Twice as many 
men as there are berths going in the local trade. All 

[ 223 ] 


hungry for an easy job. Twice as many — ^and — ^What 
d'you think, Whalley? ..." 

He stopped short ; his hands clenched and thrust deeply 
downwards, seemed ready to burst the pockets of his 
jacket. A slight sigh escaped Captain Whalley. 

"Hey? You would think they would *be falling over 
each other. Not a bit of it. Frightened to go home. 
Nice and warm out here to lie about a yeranda waiting 
for a job. I sit and wait in my office. Nobody. What 
did they suppose? That I was going to sit there like 
a dummy with the Consul-General's cable before me? 
Not likely. So I looked up a list of them I keep by 
me and sent word for Hamilton — ^the worst loafer of 
them all — and just made him go. Threatened to in- 
struct the steward of the Sailors* Home to have him 
turned out neck and crop. He did not think the berth 
was good enough — ^if — ^you — ^please. * I*ve your little 
record by me/ said L ^ You came ashore here eighteen 
months ago, and you haven't done six months' work 
since. You are in debt for your board now at the Home, 
and I suppose you reckon the Marine Office will pay in 
the end. Eh? So it shall; but if you don't take this 
chance, away you go to England, assisted passage, by 
the first homeward steamer that comes along. You are 
no better than a pauper. We don't want any white 
paupers here.' I scared him. But look at the trouble 
all this gave me." 

** You would not have had any trouble," Captain Whal- 
ley said almost involuntarily, " if you had sent for 


I »»^ 1 


Captain Eliott was immensely amused; he shook with 
laughter as he walked. But suddenly he stopped laugh- 
ing. A vague recollection had crossed his mind. Hadn't 
he heard it said at the time of the Travancore and Deccan 
smash that poor Whalley had been cleaned out com- 
pletely. " Fellow's hard up, by heavens ! " he thought ; 
and at once he cast a sidelong upward glance at his 
companion. But Captain Whalley was smiling austerely 
straight before him, with a carriage of the head incon- 
ceivable in a penniless man — and he became reassured. 
Impossible. Could not have lost everything. That ship 
had been only a hobby of his. And the reflection that 
a man who had confessed to receiving that very morning 
a presumably large sum of money was not hkely tc 
spring upon him a demand for a small loan put him 
entirely at his ease again. There had come a long pause 
in their talk, however, and not knowing how to begin 
again, he growled out soberly, " We old fellows ought 
to take a rest now." 

" The best thing for some of us would be to die at the 
oar,'' Captain Whalley said negligently. 

" Come, now. Aren't you a bit tired by this time of 
the whole show? " muttered the other sullenly. 

" Are you? " 

Captain Eliott was. Infernally tired. He only hung 
on to his berth so long in order to get his pension on the 
highest scale before he went home. It would be no better 
than poverty, anyhow; still, it was the only thing be- 
tween him and the workhouse. And he had a family. 
Three girls, as Whalley knew. He gave " Harry, old 

[ 225 ] 


'^y?" to understand that these three girls were a source 
of the greatest anxiety and worry to hun. Enough to 
drive a man distracted. 

"Why? What have they been doing now?" asked 
Captain Whalley with a sort of amused absent-minded- 
ness. ' 

" Doing ! Doing nothing. That's just it. Lawn- 
tennis and silly novels from morning to night. . . ." 

If one of them at least had been a boy! But all three! 
And, as ill-luck would have it, there did not seem to be 
any decent young fellows left in the world. When he 
looked around in the club he saw only a lot of conceited 
popinjays too selfish to think of making a good woman 
happy. Extreme indigence stared him in the face with 
all that crowd to keep at home. He had cherished the 
idea of building himself a little house in the country — • 
in Surrey — to end his days in, but he was afraid it was 
out of the question . . . and his staring eyes rolled 
upwards with such a pathetic anxiety that Captain Whal- 
ley charitably nodded down at him, restraining a sort of 
sickening desire to laugh. 

" You must know what it is yourself, Harry. Girls 
are the very devil for worry and anxiety." 

" Ay ! But mine is doing well," Captain Whalley pro- 
nounced slowly, staring to the end of the avenue. 

The Master- Attendant was glad to hear this. Uncom- 
monly glad. He remembered her well. A pretty girl 
she was. 

Captain Whalley, stepping out carelessly, assented as 
if in a dream. 

[ ««6 ] 


" She was pretty." 

The procession of carriages was breaking up. 

One after another they left the file to go off at a trot, 
animating the vast avenue with their scattered life and 
movement; but soon the aspect of dignified solitude re- 
turned and took possession of the straight wide road* 
A syce in white stood at the head of a Burmali pony har- 
nessed to a varnished two-wheel cart ; and the whole thing 
waiting by the curb seemed no bigger than a child's toy 
forgotten under the soaring trees. Captain Eliott 
waddled up to it and made as if to clamber in, but re- 
frained; and keeping one hand resting easily on the 
shaft, he changed the conversation from his pension, his 
daughters, and his poverty back again to the only other 
topic in the world — the Marine Office, the men and the 
ships of the port. 

He proceeded to give instances of what was expected 
of him; and his thick voice drowsed in the still air like 
the obstinate droning of an enormous bumble-bee. Cap- 
tain Whalley did not know what was the force or the 
weakness that prevented him from saying good-night 
and walking away. It was as though he had been too 
tired to make the effort. How queer. More queer than 
any of Ned's instances. Or was it that overpowering 
sense of idleness alone that made him stand there and 
listen to these stories? Nothing very real had ever 
troubled Ned Eliott; and gradually he seemed to detect 
deep in, as if wrapped up in the gross wheezy rumble, 
something of the clear hearty voice of the young captain 
if the Ringdove. He wondered if he too had changed to 

[ 227 ] 


the same extent; and it seemed to him that the voice of 
his old chum had not changed so very much — ^that the 
man was the same. Not a bad fellow the pleasant, jolly 
Ned Eliott, friendly, well up to his business — and always 
a bit of a humbug. He remembered how he used to 
amuse his poor wife. She could read him like an open 
book. When the Condor and the Ringdove happened to 
be in port together, she would frequently ask him to 
bring Captain Eliott to dinner. They had not met often 
since those old days. Not once in five years, perhaps. 
He regarded from under his white eyebrows this man 
he could not bring himself to take into his confidence 
at this juncture; and the other went on with his intimate 
outpourings, and as remote from his hearer as though 
he had been talking on a hill-top a mile away. 

He was in a bit of a quandary now as to the steamer 
Sofala. Ultimately every hitch in the port came into 
his hands to undo. They would miss him when he was 
gone in another eighteen months, and most likely some 
retired naval officer had been pitchforked into the ap- 
pointment — a man that would understand nothing and 
care less. That steamer was a coasting craft having a 
steady trade connection as far north as Tenasserim ; but 
the trouble was she could get no captain to take her 
on her regular trip. Nobody would go in her. He 
really had no power, of course, to order a man to take 
a job. It was all very well to stretch a point on the 
demand of a consul-general, but . . • 

" What's the matter with the ship? " Captain Whalley 
interrupted in measured tones. 

f 228 ] 


" Nothing's the matter. Sound old steamer. Her 
jwner has been in my office this afternoon tearing his 

" Is he a white man? " asked Whalley in an interested 

" He calls himself a white man," answered the Master- 
Attendant scornfully; "but if so, it's just skin-deep 
and no more. I told him that to his face too." 

" But who is he, then? " 

" He's the chief engineer of her. See that, 

" I see," Captain Whalley said thoughtfully. ^' The 
engineer. I see." 

How the fellow came to be a shipowner at the same 
time was quite a tale. He came out third in a home 
ship nearly fifteen years ago, Captain Eliott remem- 
bered, and got paid off after a bad sort of row both 
with his skipper and his chief. Anyway, they seemed 
jolly glad to get rid of him at all costs. Clearly a mu- 
tinous sort of chap. Well, he remained out here, a per- 
fect nuisance, everlastingly sliipped and unshipped, un- 
able to keep a berth very long; pretty nigh went 
through every engine-room afloat belon^ng to the 
colony. Then suddenly, " What do you think hap- 
pened, Harry? " 

Captain Whalley, who seemed lost in a mental effort 
as of doing a sum in his head, gave a slight start. He 
really couldn't imagine. The Master- Attendant's voice 
vibrated dully with hoarse emphasis. The man actuaUy 
had the luck to win the second prize in the Manilla lot- 

[ 2«9 ] 


tery. All these engineers and officers of sluM took 
tickets in that gamble. It seemed to be a perfect mania 
with them all. 

Everybody expected now that he would take himself 
off home with his money, and go to the devil in his own 
way. Not at all. The Sofcda, judged too small and 
not quite modem enough for the sort of trade she was 
in, could be got for a moderate price from her owners, 
who had ordered a new steamer from Europe. He 
rushed in and bought her. This man had never given 
any signs of that sort of mental intoxication the mere 
fact of getting hold of a large sum of money may pro- 
duce — not till he got a ship of his own; but then he 
went off his balance all at once : came bouncing into the 
Marine Office on some transfer business, with his hat 
hanging over his left eye and switching a little cane in 
his hand, and told each one of the clerks separately that 
" Nobody could put him out now. It was his turn. 
There was no one over him on earth, and there never 
would be either." He swaggered and strutted between 
the desks, talking at the top of his voice, and trembling 
like a leaf all the while, so that the current business 
of the office was suspended for the time he was in there, 
and everybody in the big room stood open-mouthed 
looking at his antics. Afterwards he could be seen 
during the hottest hours of the day with his face as 
red as fire rushing along up and down the quays to look 
at his ship from different points of view: he seemed 
inclined to stop every stranger he came across just to 
let them know " that there would be no longer anyone 

[ 880 ] 


over him ; he had bought a ship ; nobody on earth could 
put him out of his engine-room now." 

Good bargain as she was, the price of the Sofala took 
up pretty near all the lottery-money. He had left him- 
self no capital to work with. That did not matter so 
much, for these were the halcyon days of steam coasting 
trade, before some of the home shipping iSrms had 
thought of establishing local fleets to feed their main 
lines. These, when once organized, took the biggest 
slices out of that cake, of course ; and by-and-by a squad 
of confounded German tramps turned up east of Suez 
Canal and swept up all the crumbs. They prowled on 
the cheap to and fro along the coast and between the 
islands, like a lot of sharks in the water ready to snap 
up anything you let drop. And then the high old times 
were over for good; for years the Sofala had made no 
more, he judged, than a fair living. Captain Eliott 
looked upon it as his duty in every way to assist an 
English ship to hold her own; and it stood to reason 
that if for want of a captain the Sofala began to miss 
her trips she would very soon lose her trade. There was 
the quandary. The man was too impracticable. " Too 
much of a beggar on horseback from the first,*' he ex- 
plained. " Seemed to grow worse as the time went on. 
In the last three years he's run through eleven skippers ; 
he had tried every single man here, outside of the regu- 
lar lines. I had warned him before that this would not 
do. And now, of course, no one will look at the Sofala. 
I had one or two men up at my office and talked to 
them ; but, as they said to me, what was the good of 

[281 ] 


taking the berth to lead a regular dog's life for a 
month and then get the sack at the end of the first trip? 
The f ellowy of course, told me it was all nonsense ; there 
has been a plot hatching for years against him. And 
now it had come. All the horrid sailors in the port had 
conspired to bring him to his knees, because he was an 

Captain Eliott emitted a throaty chuckle. 

^^ And the fact is, that if he misses a couple more trips 
he need never trouble himself to start again. He won't 
find any cargo in his old trade. There's too much com- 
petition nowadays for people to keep their stuff lying 
about for a ship that does not turn up when she's ex- 
pected. It's a bad lookout for him. He swears he will 
shut himself on board" and starve to death in his cabin 
rather than sell her — even if he could find a buyer. And 
that's not likely in the least. Not even the Japs would 
give her insured value for her. It isn't like selling 
sailing-ships. Steamers do get out of date, besides get- 
ting old." 

" He must have laid by a good bit of money though," 
observed Captain Whalley quietly. 

The Harbor-master puffed out his purple cheeks to 
an amazing size. 

" Not a stiver, Harry. Not — ^a — single sti-ver." 

He waited; but as Captain Whalley, stroking his 
beard slowly, looked down on the ground without a 
word, he tapped him on the forearm, tiptoed, and said 
in a hoarse whisper — 

The Manilla lottery has been eating him up." 

r 2S2 1 



He frowned a Kttle, nodding in tiny affirmative jerks* 
They all were going in for it; a third of the wages 
paid to ships' officers (" in my port," he snorted) went 
to Manilla. It was a mania. That fellow Massy had 
been bitten by it like the rest of them from the first; 
but after winning once he seemed to have persuaded 
himself he had only to try again to get another big 
prize. He had taken dozens and scores of tickets for 
every drawing since. What with this vice and his ig- 
norance of affairs, ever since he had improvidently 
bought that steamer he had been more or less short of 

This, in Captain Eliott's opinion, gave an opening 
for a sensible sailor-man with a few pounds to step in 
and save that fool from the consequences of his folly. 
It was his craze to quarrel with his captains. He had 
had some really good men too, who would have been 
too glad to stay if he would only let them. But no. He 
seemed to think he was no owner unless he was kicking 
Bomebody out in the morning and having a row with 
the new man in the evening. What was wanted for him 
was a master with a couple of hundred or so to take 
an interest in the ship on proper conditions. You don't 
discharge a man for no fault, only because of the fun 
of telling him to pack up his traps and go ashore, when 
you know that in that case you are bound to buy back 
his share. On the other hand^ a fellow with an interest 

in the ship is not likely to throw up his job in a huff 

about a trifle. He had told Massy that. He had said : 
This won't do, Mr, Massy, We are getting very 

(( « 


sick of you here in the Marine Office. What you must 
do now is to try whether you could get a sailor to join 
you as partner. That seems to be the only way.' And 
that was sound ddvice, Harry." 

Captain Whalley, leaning on his stick, was perfectly 
still all over, and his hand, arrested in the act of strok- 
ing, grasped his whole beard. And what did the fellow 
say to that? 

The fellow had the audacity to fly out at the Master- 
Attendant. He had received the advice in a most im- 
pudent manner. " I didn't come here to be laughed at," 
he had shrieked. ^^ I appeal to you as an Englishman 
and a shipowner brought to the verge of ruin by an 
illegal conspiracy of your beggarly sailors, and all you 
condescend to do for me is to tell me to go and get a 
partner ! " . . . The fellow had presumed to stamp 
with rage on the floor of the private ofiice. Where was 
he going to get a partner? Was he being taken for 
a fool? Not a single one of that contemptible lot ashore 
at the " Home " had twopence in his pocket to bless 
himself with. The very native curs in the bazaar knew 
that much. ..." And it's true enough, Harry ,*' rum- 
bled Captain Eliott judicially. " They are much more 
likely one and all to owe money to the Chinamen in 
Denham Road for the clothes on their backs. * Well,' 
said I, * you make too much noise over it for my taste, 
Mr. Massy. Good morning.' He banged the door after 
him ; he dared to bang my door, confound his cheek ! " 

The head of the Marine department was out of breath 
with indignation; then recollecting himself as it were, 

[ SS4 ] 


" I'll end by being late to dinner — ^yarning with you 
here . . . wife doesn't like it." 

He clambered ponderously into the trap; leaned out 
sideways, and only then wondered wheezily what on 
earth Captain Whalley could have been doing with 
himself of late. They had had no sight of each other 
for years and years till the other day when he had seen 
him unexpectedly in the office. 

What on earth . . . 

Captain Whalley seemed to be smiling to himself in his 
white beard. 

" The earth is big,'* he said vaguely. 

The other, as if to test the statement, stared all round 
from his driving-seat. The Esplanade was very quiet; 
only from afar, from very far, a long way from the sea- 
shore, across the stretches of grass, through the long 
ranges of trees, came faintly the toot — ^toot — ^toot of 
the cable car beginning to roll before the empty peristyle 
of the Public Library on its three-mile journey to the 
New Harbor Docks. 

" Doesn't seem to be so much room on it," growled the 
Master- Attendant, " since these Grermans came along 
shouldering us at every turn. It was not so in our 

He fell into deep thought, breathing stertorously, as 
though he had been taking a nap open-eyed. Perhaps 
he too, on his side, had detected in the silent pilgrim- 
like figure, standing there by the wheel, like an arrested 
wayfarer, the buried lineaments of the features belong- 
ing to the young captain of the Condor, Good fellow — 

[ 286 ] 


Harrjr Whalky — oerer Tory talkstiTe. Toa neTd 
knew what he was up to — a bit too off-hand with peoplj 
of consequence, and apt to take a wrong view of a fell 
low's actions. Fact was he had a too good opinicm oj 
himself. He would hare liked to tdl him to get in an({ 
drive him home to dinner. But one never knew. Wifi 
would not like it. 

^ And it's funny to think, Harry," he went on in t 
big, subdued drone, ^ that of all the people on it then 
seems only you and I left to remember this part of th 
world as it used to be . . ." 

He was ready to indulge in the sweetness of a scnti 
mental mood had it not struck him suddenly that Cap 
tain Whalley, unstirring and without a word, seemec 
to be awaiting something — ^perhaps expecting . . . H 
gathered the reins at once and burst out in bluff, heart] 
growls — 

** Ha ! My dear boy. The men we have known — ^thi 
ships we've sailed — ay ! and the things we've done . . .] 

The pony plunged — ^the syce skipped out of the wayj 
Captain Whalley raised his arm. 

" Good-by." 


The sun had set. And when, after drilling a deep hol^ 
with his stick, he moved from that spot the night haq 
massed its army of shadows under the trees. Thej 
filled the eastern ends of the avenues as if only waitin 
the signal for a general advance upon the open spac 

[ 236 ] 


>f the world ; they were gathering low between the deep 
jtone-faced banks of the canal. The Malay prau, half- 
soncealed under the arch of the bridge, had not altered 
Its position a quarter of an inch. For a long time Cap- 
tain Whalley stared down over the parapet, till at last 
the floating immobility of that beshrouded thing seemed 
to grow upon him into something inexpUcable and 
Eilarming. The twilight abandoned the zenith; its re- 
flected gleams left the world below, and the water of the 
canal seemed to turn into pitch. Captain Whalley 
crossed it. 

The turning to the right, which was his way to his 

hotel, was only a very few steps farther. He stopped 

again (all the houses of the sea-front were shut up, the 

quayside was deserted, but for one or two figures of 

natives walking in the distance) and began to reckon the 

amount of his bill. So many days in the hotel at so 

many dollars a day. To count the days he used his 

fingers: plunging one hand into his pocket, he jingled a 

few silver coins. All right for three days more; and 

then, unless something turned up, he must break into 

the five hundred — Ivy's money — ^invested in her father. 

It seemed to him that the first meal coming out of that 

reserve would choke him — for certain. Reason was of 

no use. It was a matter of feeling. His feelings had 

never played him false. 

He did not turn to the right. He walked on, as if 
there still had been a ship in the roadstead to which 
he could get himself pulled off in the evening. Far 
away, beyond the houses, on the slope of an indigo 

[ 237 ] 


promontory closing the view of the quays, the sliii 
column of a factory-chimney smoked quietly straight 
up into the clear air. A Chinaman, curled down in the 
stem of one of the half-dozen sampans floating off the 
end of the jetty, caught sight of a beckoning hand. 
He jumped up, rolled his pigtail round his head swiftly, 
tucked in two rapid movements his wide dark trousers 
high up his yellow thighs, and by a single, noiseless, fin- 
like stir of the oars, sheered the sampan alongside the 
steps with the ease and precision of a swinuning 

** Sofala,^^ articulated Captain Whalley from above; 
and the Chinaman, a new emigrant probably, stared 
upwards with a tense attention as if waiting to see the 
queer word fall visibly from the white man's lips. 
" Sofala,^* Captain Whalley repeated ; and suddenly his 
heart failed him. He paused. The shores, the islets, the 
high ground, the low points, were dark : the horizon had 
grown somber ; and across the eastern sweep of the shore 
the white obelisk, marking the landing-place of the 
telegraph-cable, stood like a pale ghost on the beach 
before the dark spread of uneven roofs, intermingled 
with palms, of the native town. Captain Whalley be- 
gan again. 

" Sofala, Savee So-fa-la, John? '' 

This time the Chinaman made out that bizarre sound, 
and grunted his assent uncouthly, low down in his bare 
throat. With the first yellow twinkle of a star that ap- 
peared like the head of a pin stabbed deep into the 
smooth, pale, shimmering fabric of the sky, the edge 



of a keen chill seemed to cleave through the warm air 
of the earth. At the moment of stepping into the sam- 
pan to go and try for the command of the Sofala Cap- 
tain Whalley shivered a little* 

When on his return he landed on the quay again Venus, 
like a choice jewel set low on the hem of the sky, cast 
a faint gold trail behind him upon the roadstead, as 
level as a floor made of one dark and polished stone. 
The lofty vaults of the avenues were black — all black 
overhead — and the porcelain globes on the lamp-posts 
resembled egg-shaped pearls, gigantic and luminous, 
displayed in a row whose farther end seemed to sink 
in the distance^ down to the level of his knees. He put 
his hands behind his back. He would now consider 
calmly the discretion of it before saying the final word 
to-morrow. His feet scrunched the gravel loudly — the 
discretion of it. It would have been easier to appraise 
had there been a workable alternative. The honesty of 
it was indubitable: he meant well by the fellow; and 
periodically his shadow leaped up intense by his side on 
the trunki^ of the trees, to lengthen itself, oblique and 
dim, far over the grass— repeating his stride. 

The discretion of it. Was there a choice.? He seemed 
already to have lost something of himself ; to have given 
up to a hungry specter something of his truth and dig- 
nity in order to live. But his life was necessary. Let 
poverty do its worst in exacting its toll of humiliation. 
It was certain that Ned Eliott had rendered him, with- 
out knowing it, a service for which it would have been 

[ 839 ] 


impossible to ask. He hoped Ned would not think there 
had been something underhand in his action. He sup- 
posed that now when he heard of it he would understand 
— or perhaps he would only think Whalley an eccentric 
old fool. What would have been the good of telling 
hira — ^any more than of blurting the whole tale to that 
man Massy? Five hundred pounds ready to invest. Let 
him make the best of that. Let him wonder. You want 
a captain — ^I want a ship. That's enough. B-r-r-r-r. 
What a disagreeable impression that empty, dark, 
echoing steamer had made upon him. . . . 

A laid~up steamer W6us a dead thing and no mistake; 
a sailing-ship somehow seems always ready to spring 
into life with the breath of the incorruptible heaven; 
but a steamer, thought Captain Whalley, with her fires 
out, without the warm whifFs from below meeting you on 
her decks, without the hiss of steam, the clangs of iron 
in her breast — ^lies there as cold and still and pulseless as 
a corpse. 

In the solitude of the avenue, all black above and 
lighted below. Captain! Whalley, considering the dis- 
cretion of his course, met, as it were incidentally, the 
thought of death. He pushed it aside with dislike and 
contempt. He almost laughed at it; and in the un- 
quenchable vitality of his age only thought with a kind 
of exultation how little he needed to keep body and soul 
together. Not a bad investment for the poor woman 
this solid carcass of her father. And for the rest — ^in 
case of anything — ^the agreement should be clear: the 
whole five hundred to be paid back tc her integrally 

[ 240 ] 


within three months. Integrally. Every penny. He 
was not to lose any of her money whatever else had 
to go — ^a little dignity — some of his self-respect. He 
had never before allowed anybody to remain under any 
sort of false impression as to himself. Well, let that 
go — for her sake. After all, he had never said any- 
thing misleading — ^and Captain Whalley felt himself 
corrupt to the marrow of his bones. He laughed a little 
with the intimate scorn of his worldly prudence. 
Clearly, with a fellow of that sort, and in the peculiar 
relation they were to stand to each other, it would not 
have done to blurt out everything. He did not like the 
fellow. He did not like his spells of fawning loquacity 
and bursts of resentfulness. In the end — a poor devil. 
He would not have Hked to stand in his shoes. Men 
were not evil, after all. He did not like his sleek hair, 
his queer way of standing at right angles, with his nose 
in the air, and glancing along his shoulder at you. No. 
On the whole, men were not bad — ^they were only silly 
or unhappy. 

Captain Whalley had finished considering the discre- 
tion of that step — and there was the whole Iciig night 
before him. In the full light his long beard would 
glisten like a silver breastplate covering his heart; in 
the spaces between the lamps his burly figure passed less 
distinct, loomed very big, wandering, and mysterious. 
No; there was not much real harm in men: and all the 
time a shadow marched with him, slanting on his left 
hand — ^which in the East is a presage of evil. 

• ••*••• 

[ 241 ] 


" Can you make out the clump of palms yet, Serang? '* 
Asked Captain Whalley from his chair on the bridge of 
the Sofala approaching the bar of Batu Beru. 

" No, Tuan. By-and-by see." The old Malay, in a 
blue dungaree suit, planted on his bony dark feet under 
the bridge awning, put his hands behind his back and 
stared ahead out of the innumerable wrinkles at the 
comers of his eyes. 

Captain Whalley sat still, without lifting his head to 
look for himself. Three years — ^thirty-six times. He 
had made these palms thirty-six times from the south- 
ward. They would come into view at the proper time. 
Thank God, the old ship made her courses and distances 
trip after trip, as correct as clockwork. At last he mur- 
mured again— 

"In sight yet?" 

** The sun makes a very great glare, Tuan." 

** Watch well, Serang." 

« Ya, Tuan." 

A white man had ascended the ladder from the deck 
noiselessly, and had listened quietly to this short col- 
loquy. Then he stepped out on the bridge and began 
to walk from end to end, holding up the long cherry- 
wood stem of a pipe. His black hair lay plastered in 
long lanky wisps across the bald summit of his head; 
he had a furrowed brow, a yellow complexion, and a 
thick shapeless nose. A scanty growth of whisker did 
not conceal the contour of his jaw. His aspect was of 
brooding care; and sucking at a curved black mouth- 
piece, he presented such a heavy overhanging profile 

[ 242 ] 


that even the Serang could not help reflecting sometimes 
upon the extreme unloveliness of some white men. 

Captain Whalley seemed to brace himself up in his 
chair, but gave no recognition whatever to his presence. 
The other puffed jets of smoke; then suddenly — 

" I could never understand that new mania of yours 
of having this Malay here for your shadow, partner." 

Captain Whalley got up from the chair in all his im- 
posing stature and walked across to the binnacle, hold- 
ing such an unswerving course that the other had to 
back away hurriedly, and remained as if intimidated, 
with the pipe trembling in his hand. " Walk over me 
now," he muttered in a sort of astounded and dis- 
comfited whisper. Then slowly and distinctly he 
said — 

" I — ^am — ^not — dirt." And then added defiantly, " As 
you seem to think." 

The Serang jerked out — 

" See the palms now, Tuan." 

Captain Whalley strode forward to the rail; but his 
eyes, instead of going straight to the point, with the 
assured keen glance of a sailor, wandered irresolutely 
in space, as though he, the discoverer of new routes, had 
lost his way upon this narrow sea. 

Another white man, the mate, came up on the bridge. 
He was tall, young, lean, with a mustache like a 
trooper, and something malicious in the eye. He took 
up a position beside the engineer. Captain Wlialley, 
with his back to them, inquired — 

*' What's on the log?" 

[ 248] 


** Eighty-five," answered the mate quickly, and nudged 
the engineer with his elbow. 

Captain Whalley's muscular hands squeezed the iron 
rail with an extraordinary force; his eyes glared with 
an enormous effort; he knitted his eyebrows, . the per- 
spiration fell from under his hat, — ^and in a faint voice 
he murmured, " Steady her, Serang — ^when she is on 
the proper bearing." 

The silent Malay stepped back, waited a little, and 
lifted his arm warningly to the helmsman. The wheel 
revolved rapidly to meet the swing of the ship. Again 
the mate nudged the engineer. But Massy turned upon 

" Mr. Sterne," he said violently, " let me tell you — 
as a shipowner — that you are no better than a con- 
founded fool." 


Sterne went down smirking and apparently not at 
all disconcerted, but the engineer Massy remained on 
the bridge, moving about with uneasy self-assertion. 
Everybody on board was his inferior — everyone with- 
out exception. He paid their wages and found them in 
their food. They ate more of his bread and pocketed 
more of his money than they were worth ; and they had 
no care in the world, while he alone had to meet all the 
difficulties of shipowning. When he contemplated his 
position in all its menacing entirety, it seemed to him 
that he had been for years the prey of a band of para* 

[ 244 ] 


sites: and for years he had scowled at everybody con- 
nected with the Sofala except, perhaps, at the Chinese 
firemen who served to get her along. Their use was 
manifest: they were an indispensable part of the ma- 
chinery of which he was the master. 

When he passed along his decks he shouldered those 
he came across brutally ; but the Malay deck hands had 
learned to dodge out of his way. He had to bring him- 
self to tolerate them because of the necessary manual 
labor of the ship which must be done. He had to 
struggle and plan and scheme to keep the Sofala afloat 
— ^and what did he get for it? Not even enough respect. 
They could not have given him enough of that if all 
their thoughts and all their actions had been directed 
to that end. The vanity of possession, the vainglory 
of power, had passed away by this time, and there re- 
mained only the material embarrassments, the fear of 
losing that position which had turned out not worth 
having, and an anxiety of thought which no abject sub- 
servience of men could repay. 

He walked up and down. The bridge was his own 
after all. He had paid for it; and with the stem of 
the pipe in his hand he would stop short at times as 
if to listen with a profound and concentrated attention 
to the deadened beat of the engines (his own engines) 
and the slight grinding of the steering chains upon the 
continuous low wash of water alongside. But for these 
sounds, the ship might have been lying as still as if 
moored to a bank, and as silent as if abandoned by every 
living soul; only the coast, the low coast of mud and 



mangroves with the three palms in a bunch at the back, 
grew slowly more distinct in its long straight line, with- 
out a single feature to arrest attention. The native 
passengers of the Sofala lay about on mats under the 
awnings; the smoke of her funnel seemed the only sign 
of her Uf e and connected with her ghding motion in a 
mysterious manner. 

Captain Whalley on his feet, with a pair of binoculars 
in his hand and the little Malay Serang at his elbow, 
like an old giant attended by a wizened pigmy, was tak- 
ing her over the shallow water of the bar. 

This submarine ridge of mud, scoured by the stream 
out of the soft bottom of the river and heaped up far 
out on the hard bottom of the sea, was diflScult Co get 
over. The alluvial coast having no distinguishing 
marks, the bearings of the crossing-place had to be 
taken from the shape of the mountains inland. The 
guidance of a form flattened and uneven at the top hke 
a grinder tooth, and of emother smooth, saddle-backed 
summit, had to be searched for within the great im- 
clouded glare that seemed to shift and float like a dry 
fiery mist, filling the air, ascending from the water, 
shrouding the distances, scorching to the eye. In this 
veil of light the near edge of the shore alone stood 
out almost coal-black with an opaque and motionless 
solidity. Thirty miles away the serrated range of the 
interior stretched across the horizon, its outlines and 
shades of blue, faint and tremulous like a background 
painted on airy gossamer on the quivering fabric of an 
impalpable curtain let down to the plain of alluvial soil; 

[ 246 ] 


;ind the openings of the estuary appeared, shining 
white, like bits of silver let into the square pieces snipped 
clean and sharp out of the body of the land bordered 
with mangroves. 

On the forepart of the bridge the giant and the pigmy 
muttered to each other frequently in quiet tones. Be- 
hind them Massy stood sideways with an expression of 
disdain and suspense on his face. His globular eyes 
were perfectly motionless, and he seemed to have for- 
gotten the long pipe he held in his hand. 

On the fore-deck below the bridge, steeply roofed with 
the white slopes of the awnings, a young lascar seaman 
had clambered outside the rail. He adjusted quickly 
a broad band of sail canvas under his armpits, and 
throwing his chest against it, leaned out far over the 
water. The sleeve of his thin cotton shirt, cut oflf close 
to the shoulder, bared his brown arm of full rounded 
form and with a satiny skin like a woman's. He swung 
it rigidly with the rotary and menacing action of a 
slinger: the 14-lb. weight hurtled circling in the air, 
then suddenly flew ahead as far as the curve of the bow. 
The wet thin line swished like scratched silk running 
through the dark fingers of the man, and the plunge of 
the lead close to the ship's side made a vanishing silvery 
scar upon the golden glitter; then after an interval the 
voice of the young Malay uplifted and long-drawn de- 
clared the depth of the water in his own language. 

" Tiga stengah,*' he cried after each splash and pause, 
gathering the line busily f%r another cast. " Tiga 
stengah," which means three fathom and a half. For 

[247 ] 


a mile or so from seaward there was a uniform depth 
of water right up to the bar. "Half -three. Half- 
three. Half-three," — ^and his modulated cry, returned 
leisiurdy and monotonous, Uke the repeated call of a 
bird, seemed to float away in sunshine and disappear in 
the spacious silence of the empty sea and of a lifeless 
ahore lying open, north and south, east and west, with- 
out the stir of a single cloud-shadow or the whisper of 
any other voice. 

The owner-engineer of the Sofala remained very still 
behind the two seamen of different race, creed, and 
color; the European with the time-defying vigor of 
his old frame, the little Malay, old, too, but slight and 
shrunken like a withered brown leaf blown by a chance 
wind under the mighty shadow of the other. Very 
busy looking forward at the land, they had not a glance 
to spare; and Massy, glaring at them from behind, 
seemed to resent their attention to their duty like a per* 
Bonal slight upon himself. 

This was unreasonable; but he had lived in his owo 
world of unreasonable resentments for many years. At 
last, passing his moist palm over the rare lanky wisps 
of coarse hair on the top of his yellow head, he began 
to talk slowly. 

** A leadsman, you want ! I suppose that's your cor- 
rect mail-boat style. Haven't you enough judgment 
to tell where you are by looking at the land? Why, 
before I had been a twelvemonth in the trade I was up 
to that trick — and I am only an engineer. I can point 
to you from here where the bar is, and I could tell you 



besides that jou are as likely as not to stick her in the 
mud in about five minutes from now; only you would 
call it interfering, I suppose. And there's that written 
agreement of ours, that says I mustn't interfere." 

His voice stopped. Captain Whalley, without relax- 
ing the set severity of his features, moved his lips to ask 
in a quick mumble — 

" How near, Serang? " 

" Very near now, Tuan," the Malay muttered rapidly. 

" Dead slow," said the Captain aloud in a firm tone. 

The Serang snatched at the handle of the telegraph, 
A gong clanged down below. Massy with a scornful 
snigger walked off and put his head down the engine- 
^oom skylight. 

" You may expect some rare fooling with the engines, 
Jack," he bellowed. The space into which he stared was 
deep and full of gloom; and the gray gleams of steel 
down there seemed cool after the intense glare of the 
sea around the ship. The air, however, came up clammy 
and hot on his face. A short hoot on which it would 
have been impossible to put any sort of interpretation 
came from the bottom cavernously. This was the way 
in which the second engineer answered his chief. 

He was a middle-aged man with an inattentive man- 
n«r, and apparently wrapped up in such a taciturn con- 
cern for his engines that he seemed to have lost the use 
of speech. When addressed directly his only answer 
would be a grunt or a hoot, according to the distance. 
For all the years he had been in the Sofala he had never 
been known to exchange as much as a frank Good-morn 


ing with any of his shipmates. He did not seem awan 
that men came and went in the world; he did not seem 
to see them at all. Indeed he never recognized his ship 
mates on shore. At table (the four white men of the 
SofcHa messed together) he sat looking into his plate 
dispassionately, but at the end of the meal would jiunp 
up and bolt down below as if a sudden thought had im- 
pelled him to rush and see whether somebody had not 
stolen the engines while he dined. In port at the end of 
the trip he went ashore regularly, but no one knew 
where he spent his evenings or in what manner. The 
local coasting fleet had preserved a wild and incoherent 
tale of his infatuation for the wife of a sergeant in an 
Irish infantry regiment. The regiment, however, had 
done its turn of garrison duty there ages before, and 
was gone somewhere to the other side of the earth, out 
of men's knowledge. Twice or perhaps three times in 
the course of the year he would take too much to drink. 
On these occasions he returned on board at an earlier 
hour than usual; ran across the deck balancing himself 
with his spread arms like a tight-rope walker; and 
locking the door of his cabin, he would converse and 
argue with himself the livelong night in an amazing 
variety of tones ; storm, sneer, and whine with an inex- 
haustible persistence. Massy in his berth next door, 
raising himself on his elbow, would discover that his 
second had remembered the name of every white man 
that had parsed through the Sofala for years and years 
back. He remembered the names of men that had died, 
that had gone home, that had gone to America: he 

J 250 J 


remembered in his cups the names of men whose con« 
nection with the ship had been so short that Massy had 
almost forgotten its circumstances and could barely re** 
call their faces. The inebriated voice on the other side 
of the bulkhead commented upon them all with an ex- 
traordinary and ingenious venom of scandalous inven- 
tions. It seems they had all oiFended him in some way, 
and in return he had found them all out. He muttered 
darkly; he laughed sardonically; he crushed them one 
after another ; but of his chief, Massy, he babbled with 
an envious and naive admiration. Clever scoundrel! 
Don't meet the likes of him every day. Just look at 
him. Ha ! Great ! Ship of his own. Wouldn't catch 
him going wrong. No fear — the beast! And Massy, 
after listening with a gratified smile to these artless 
tributes to his greatness, would begin to shout, thump- 
ing at the bulkhead with both fists — 

" Shut up, you lunatic ! Won't you let me go to 
sleep, you fool ! " 

But a half smile of pride lingered on his lips ; outside 
the solitary lascar told off for night duty in harbor, 
perhaps a youth fresh from a forest village, would stand 
motionless in the shadows of the deck listening to the 
endless drunken gabble. His heart would be thumping 
with breathless awe of white men: the arbitrary and 
obstinate men who pursue inflexibly their incompre- 
hensible purposes, — ^beings with weird intonations in the 
voice, moved by unaccountable feelings, actuated by in- 
scrutable motives. 




For a whfle after his second's answering hoot Massy 
hung over the engine-room gloomily. Captain Whal- 
ley, who, by the power of five hundred pounds, had kept 
his command for three years, might have been suspected 
of never having seen that coast before. He seemed un- 
able to put down his glasses, as though they had been 
glued under his contracted eyebrows. This settled 
frown gave to his face an air of invincible and just 
severity; but his raised elbow trembled slightly, and 
the perspiration poured from under his hat €is if a 
second sun had suddenly blazed up at the zenith by the 
side of the ardent still globe already there, in whese 
blinding white heat the earth whirled and shone like a 
mote of dust. 

From time to time, still holding up his glasses, he 
raised his other hand to wipe his streaming face. The 
drops rolled down his cheeks, fell like rain upon the 
white hairs of his beard, and brusquely, as if guided 
by an uncontrollable and anxious impulse, his arm 
reached out to the stand of the engine-room telegraph. 

The gong clanged down below. The balanced vibra- 
tion of the dead-slow speed ceased together with every 
soiind and tremor in the ship, as if the great stillness 
that reigned upon the coast had stolen in through her 
sides of iron and taken possession of her innermost re- 
cesses. The illusion of perfect immobility seemed to 
fall upon her from the luminous blue dome without a 

I 268 ] 


stain arching over a flat sea without a stir. The faint 
breeze she had made for herself expired, as if all at 
once the air had become too thick to budge; even the 
slight hiss of the water on her stem died out. The nar- 
row, long hull, carrying its way without a ripple, 
seemed to approach the shoal water of the bar by 
stealth. The plunge of the lead with the mournful, 
mechanical cry of the lascar came at longer and longer 
intervals; and the men on her bridge seemed to hold 
their breath. The Malay at the helm looked fixedly 
at the compass card, the Captain and the Serang stared 
at the coast. 

Massy had left the skylight, and, walking flat-footed, 
had returned softly to the very spot on the bridge he 
had occupied before. A slow, lingering grin exposed 
his set of big white teeth: they gleamed evenly in the 
shade of the awning like the keyboard of a piano in a 
dusky room. 

At last, pretending to talk to himself in excessive as- 
tonishment, he said not very loud — 

" Stop the engines now. What next, I wonder? " 

He waited, stooping from the shoulders, his head 
bowed, his glance oblique. Then raising his voice a 
shade — 

" If I dared make an absurd remark I would say that 
you haven't the stomach to . . ." 

But a yelling spirit of excitement, like some frantic 
soul wandering unsuspected in the vast stillness of the 
coast, had seized upon the body of the lascar at the lead. 
The languid monotony of his sing-song changed to a 

[ 26S ] 


swift, sharp clamor. The weight flew after a single 
whir, the line whistled, splash followed splash in haste. 
The water had shoaled, and the man, instead of the 
drowsy tale of fathoms, was calling out the soundings 
in feet. 

" Fifteen feet. Fifteen, fifteen ! Fourteen, four- 
teen . . .'* 

Captain Whalley lowered the arm holding the glasses. 
It descended slowly as if by its own weight; no other 
part of his towering body stirred; and the swift cries 
with their eager warning note passed him by as though 
he had been deaf. 

Massy, very still, and turning an attentive ear, had 
fastened his eyes upon the silvery, close-cropped back 
of the steady old head. The ship herself seemed to be 
arretted but for the gradual decrease of depth under 
her keel. 

" Thirteen feet . . . Thirteen ! Twelve ! '' cried the 
leadsman anxiously below the bridge. And suddenly 
the barefooted Serang stepped away noiselessly to steal 
a glance over the side. 

Narrow of shoulder, in a suit of faded blue cotton, an 
old gray felt hat rammed down on his head, with a hollow 
in the nape of his dark neck, and with his slender limbs, 
he appeared from the back no bigger than a boy of 
fourteen. There was a childlike impulsiveness in the 
curiosity with which he watched the spread of the 
voluminous, yellowish convolutions rolling up from be- 
low to the surface of the blue water like massive clouds 
driving slowly upwards on the unfathomable sky. He 

I «64 ] 


was not startled at the sight in the least. It was not 
doubt, but the certitude that the keel of the Sofala must 
be stirring the mud now, which made him peep over the 

His peering eyes, set aslant in a face of the Chinese 
type, a little old face, immovable, as if carved in old 
brown oak, had informed him long before that the ship 
was not headed at the bar properly. Paid off from 
the Fair Maid, together with the rest of the crew, after 
the completion of the sale, he had hung, in his faded 
blue suit and floppy gray hat, about the doors of the 
Harbor Office, till one day, seeing Captain Whalley 
coming along to get a crew for the Sofala^ he had put 
himself quietly in the way, with his bare feet in the dust 
and an upward mute glance. The eyes of his old com- 
mander had fallen on him favorably — ^it must have 
been an auspicious day — and in less than half an hour 
the white men in the " Ofiss " had written his name on 
a document as Serang of the fire-ship Sofala. Since 
that time he had repeatedly looked at that estuary, upon 
that coast, from this bridge and from this side of the 
bar. The record of the visual world fell through his 
eyes upon his unspeculating mind as on a sensitized 
plate through the lens of a camera. His knowledge was 
absolute and precise; nevertheless, had he been asked 
his opinion, and especially if questioned in the down- 
right, alarming manner of white men, he would have 
displayed the hesitation of ignorance. He was certain 
of his facts — but such a certitude counted for little 
against the doubt what answer would be pleasing. 

[ 266 ] ■ 


Fifty yean ago, in a jungle village, and before he waa 
a day old, his father (who died without fiver seeiRg 
a white face) had had his nativity cast by a man ef 
skill and wisdom in astrology, because in the arrange- 
ment of the stars may be read the last word of human 
destiny. His destiny had been to thrive by the favor 
of various white men on the sea. He had swept the 
decks of ships, had tended their helms, had minded their 
stores, had risen at last to be a Serang; and his placid 
mind had remained as incapable of penetrating the sim- 
plest motives of those he served as they themselves were 
incapable of detecting through the crust of the earth 
the secret nature of its he^rt, which may be fire or may 
be stone. But he had no doubt whatever that the Sofala 
was out of the proper track for crossing the bar at 
Batu Bern. 

It was a slight error. The ship could not have been 
more than twice her own length too far to the north- 
ward; and a white man at a loss for a cause (since it 
was impossible to suspect Captain Whalley of blunder- 
ing ignorance, of want of skill, or of neglect) would 
have been inclined to doubt the testimony of his senses. 
It was some such feeling that kept Massy motionless, 
with his teeth laid bare by an anxious grin. Not so the 
Serang. He was not troubled by any intellectual mis- 
trust of his senses. If his captain chose to stir the mud 
it was well. He had known in his life white men indulge 
in outbreaks equally strange. He was only genuinely 
interested to see what would come of it. At last, appar* 
ently satisfied, he stepped back from the rail. 

[256 3 


He had made no sound: Captain Whalley, howeveri 
seemed to have observed the movements of his Serang. 
Holding his head rigidlji he asked with a mere stir of 
his lips — 

" Going ahead still, Serang? '' 

" Still going a little,, Tuan," answered the Malay. 
Then added casually, " She is over." 

The lead confirmed his words; the depth of water in- 
creased at every cast, and the soul of excitement de- 
parted suddenly from the lascar swung in the canvas 
belt over the SofaWs side. Captain Whalley or- 
dered the lead in, set the engines ahead without haste, 
and averting his eyes from the coast directed the 
Serang to keep a course for the middle of the en- 

Massy brought the palm of his hand with a loud smack 
against his thigh. 

" You grazed on the bar. Just look astern and see 
if you didn't. Look at the track she left. You can see 
it plainly. Upon my soul, I thought you would ! What 
made you do that? What on earth made you do that? 
I believe you are trying to scare me." 

He talked slowly, as it were circumspectly, keeping his 
prominent black eyes on his captain. There was also a 
slight plaintive note in his rising choler, for, primarily, 
it was the clear sense of a wrong suffered undeservedly 
that made him liate the man who, for a beggarly five 
hundred pounds, claimed a sixth part of the profits 
under the three years' agreement. Whenever his resent- 
ment got the better of the awe the person of Captain 



Whalley inspired he would positively whimper with 

** You don't know what to invent to plague my life 
out of me. I would not have thought that a man of 
your sort would condescend . . ." 

He paused, half hopefully, half timidly, whenever 
Captain Whalley made the slightest movement in the 
deck-chair, as though expecting to be conciliated by a 
soft speech or else rushed upon and hunted off the 

** I am puzzled," he went on again, with the watchful 
unsmiling baring of his oig teeth. " I donH know what 
to think. I do believe you are trying to frighten me. 
You very nearly planted her on the bar for at least 
twelve hours, besides getting the engines choked with 
mud. Ships can't afford to lose twelve hours on a trip 
nowadays — ^as you ought to know very well, and do 
know very well to be sure, only . . ." 

His slow volubility, the sideways cranings of his neck, 
the black glances out of the very comers of his eyes, 
left Captain Whalley unmoved. He looked at the deck 
with a severe frown. Massy waited for some little time, 
then began to threaten plaintively. 

** You think you've got me bound hand and foot in 
that agreement. You think you can torment me in any 
way you please. Ah! But remember it has another 
six weeks to run yet. There's time for me to dismiss 
you before the three years are out. You will do yet 
something that will give me the chance to dismiss you, 
and make you wait a twelvemonth for your money before 

[ 268 ] 


you can take yourself off and pull out your five hundred, 
and leave me without a penny to get the new boilers for 
her. You gloat over that idea — don't you? I do be- 
lieve you sit here gloating. It's as if I had sold my 
soul for five hundred pounds to be everlastingly damned 
in the end. ..." 

He paused, without apparent exasperation, then con- 
tinued evenly — 

*'. . . With the boilers worn out and the survey hang- 
ing over my head, Captain Whalley-: Captain 

Whalley, I say, what do you do with your money? You 
must have stacks of money somewhere — a man like you 
must. It stands to reason. I am not a fool, you know. 
Captain Whalley — partner." 
Again he paused, as though he had done for good. 
He passed his tongue over his lips, gave a backward 
glance at the Serang conning the ship with quiet whis- 
pers and slight signs of the hand. The wash of the 
propeller sent a swift ripple, crested with dark froth, 
upon a long flat spit of black slime. The Sofala had 
entered the river; the trail she had stirred up over the 
bar was a mile astern of her now, out of sight, had dis- 
appeared utterly; and the smooth, empty sea along the 
coast was left behind in the glittering desolation of sun- 
shine. On each side of her, low down, the growth of 
somber twisted mangroves covered the semi-liquid banks ; 
and Massy continued in his old tone, with an abrupt 
start, as if his speech had been ground out of him, like 
the tune of a music-box, by turning a handle. 
" Though if anybody ever got the best of me, it is you. 

[ 259 ] 


I don't mind saying this. I've said it — ^there! What 
more can you want? Isn't that enough for your pride, 
Captain Whalley. You got over me from the first. It's 
all of a piece, when I look back at it. You allowed me 
to insert that clause about intemperance without saying 
anything, only looking very sick when I made a point 
of it going in black on white. How could I tell what 
was wrong about you? There's generally something 
wrong somewhere. And, lo and behold! when you 
come on board it turns out that you've been in the 
habit of drinking nothing but water for years and 

His dogmatic reproachful whine stopped. He brooded 
profoundly, after the manner of crafty and unintelli- 
gent men. It seemed inconceivable that Captain 
Whalley should not laugh at the expression of disgust 
that overspread the heavy, yellow countenance. But 
Captain Whalley never raised his eyes — sitting in his 
arm-chair, outraged, dignified, and motionless. 

" Much good it was to me," Massy remonstrated 
monotonously, " to insert a clause of dismissal for in- 
temperance against a man who drinks nothing but water. 
And you looked so upset, too, when I read my draft in 
the lawyer's office that morning. Captain Whalley, — 
you looked so crestfallen, that I made sure I had gone 
home on your weak spot. A shipowner can't be too 
careful as to the sort of skipper he gets. You must 
have been laughing at me in your sleeve all the blessed 
time. . . . Eh? What are you going to say? " 

Captain Whalley had only shuffled his feet slightly. 




A dull animosity became apparent in Massy's sideways 

** But recollect that there are other grounds of dis- 
missal. There's habitual carelessness, amounting to in- 
competence — ^there's gross and persistent neglect of 
duty. I am not quite as big a fool as you try to make 
me out to be. You have been careless of late — ^leaving 
everything to that Serang. Why! Fve seen you let- 
ting that old fool of a Malay take bearings for you, 
as if you were too big to attend to your work yourself. 
And what do you call that silly touch-and-go manner 
in which you took the ship over the bar just now? You 
expect me to put up with that? *' 

Leaning on his elbow against the ladder abaft the 
bridge, Sterne, the mate, tried to hear, blinking the 
while from the distance at the second engineer, who had 
come up for a moment, and stood in the engine-room 
companion. Wiping his hands on a bunch of cotton 
waste, he looked about with indifference to the right 
and left at the river banks slipping astern of the 
Sofala steadily. 

Massy turned full at the chair. The character of his 
whine became again threatening. 

" Take care. I may yet dismiss you and freeze to your 
money for a year. I may . . ." 

But before the silent, rigid immobility of the man 
whose money had come in the nick of time to save him 
from utter ruin, his voice died out in his throat. 

" Not that I want you to go," he resumed after a si- 
lence, and in an absurdly insinuating tone. ^^ I want 

r. 261 .1 


nothing better than to be friends and renew the agree 
ment, if you will consent to find another couple of hun- 
dred to help with the new boilers, Captain Whallej. 
Fve told you before. She must have new boilers; you 
know it as well as I do. Have you thought this over? " 

He waited. The slender stem of the pipe with its 
bulky lump of a bowl at the end hung down from his 
thick lips. It had gone out. Suddenly he took it from 
between his teeth and wrung his hands slightly. 

** Don't you believe me? " He thrust the pipe bowl 
into the pocket of his shiny black jacket. 

" It's like dealing with the devil," he said. ** Why 
don't you speak? At first you were so high and mighty 
with me I hardly dared to creep about my own deck. 
Now I can't get a word from you. You don't seem to 
see me at all. What does it mean? Upon my soul, you 
terrify me with this deaf and dumb trick. What's go- 
ing on in that head of yours? What are you plotting 
against me there so hard that you can't say a word? 
You will never make me believe that you — ^you — don't 
know where to lay your hands on a couple of hundred. 
You have made me curse the day I was bom. . . ." 

" Mr. Massy," said Captain Whalley suddenly, with- 
out stirring. 

The engineer started violently. 

" If that is so I can only beg you to forgive me." 

" Starboard," muttered the Serang to the helmsman ; 
and the SofcHa began to swing round the bend into the 
second reach. 

" Ough ! ■• Massy shuddered. " You make my blood 

[ 26« 3 


run cold. What made you come here? What made you 
come aboard that evening all of a sudden, with your 
high talk and your money — ^tempting me? I always 
wondered what was your motive? You fastened yourself 
on me to have easy times and grow fat on my life blood, 
I tell you. Was that it? I believe you are the greatest 
miser in the world, or else why • . ." . 

" No. I am only poor," interrupted Captain Whalley, 

" Steady," murmured the Serang. Massy turned away 
with his chin on his shoulder. 

** I don't believe it," he said in his dogmatic tone. 
Captain Whalley made no movement. " There you sit 
like a gorged vulture — exactly like a vulture." 

He embraced the middle of the reach and both the 
banks in one blank unseeing circular glance, and left the 
bridge slowly. 


On turning to descend Massy perceived the head of 
Sterne the mate loitering, with his sly confident smile, 
his red mustaches and blinking eyes, at the foot of the 

Sterne had been a junior in one of the larger shipping 
concerns before joining the Sofala. He had thrown up 
his berth, he said, " on general principles." The pro- 
motion in the employ was very slow, he complained, and 
he thought it was time for him to try and get on a bit 

[ 268 ] 


in the world. It seemed as though nobody would ever 
die or leave the firm ; they all stuck fast in their berths 
till they got mildewed ; he was tired of waiting ; and he 
feared that when a vacancy did occur the best servants 
were by no means sure of being treated fairly. Besides, 
the captain he had to serve under — Captain Pfovost — 
was an unaccountable sort of man and had taken a 
dislike to him for some reason or other. For doing 
rather more than his bare duty as likely as not 
When he had done anything wrong he could take a 
talking to, like a man; but he expected to be treated 
like a man too, and not to be addressed invariably as 
though he were a dog. He had asked Captain Provost 
plump and plain to tell him where he was at fault, and 
Captain Provost, in a most scornful way, had told him 
that he was a perfect officer, and that if he disliked the 
way he was being spoken to there was the gangway — 
he could take himself off ashore at once. But everybody 
knew what sort of man Captain Provost was. It was no 
use appealing to the office. Captain Provost had too 
much influence in the employ. All the same, they had 
to give him a good character. He made bold to say 
there was nothing in the world against him, and, as he 
had happened to hear that the mate of the Sofala had 
been taken to the hospital that morning with a sun- 
stroke, he thought there would be no harm in seeing 
whether he would not do. . . . 

He had come to Captain Whalley freshly shaved, red- 
faced, thin-flanked, throwing out his lean chest; and 
had recited his little tale with an open and manly as- 

I «w 1 


suranoe. Now and then his eyelids quivered slightly* 
his hand would steal up to the end of the flaming 
mustache; his eyebrows were straight, furry, of a chest- 
nut color» and the directness of his gaze seemed to 
tremble on the verge of impudence. Captain Whalley 
had engaged him temporarily ; then, the other man hav- 
ing been ordered home by the doctors, he had remained 
for the next trip, arvd then the next. He had now at- 
tained permanency, and the performance of his duties 
was marked by an air of serious, single-minded appli- 
cation. Directly he was spoken to, he began to smile 
attentively, with a great deference expressed in his 
whole attitude; but there was in the rapid winking 
which went on all the time something quizzical, as 
though he had possessed the secret of some imiversal 
joke cheating all creation and impenetrable to other 

Grave and smiling he watched Massy come down step 
by step ; when the chief engineer had reached the deck 
he swung about, and they found themselves face to face. 
Matched as to height and utterly dissimilar, they con- 
fronted each other as if there had been something be- 
tween them — something eke than the bright strip of 
sunlight that, falling through the wide lacing of two 
awnings, cut crosswise the narrow planking of the deck 
and separated their feet as it were a stream ; something 
profound and subtle and incalculable, like an unex- 
pressed understanding, a secret mistrust, or some sort 
of fear. 

At last Sterne, blinking his deepniet eyes imd sticking 


forward his scraped, clean-cut chin, as crimson as the 
rest of his f ace^ murmured — 

" You've seen? He grazed! You've seen? " 

Massy, contemptuous, and without raising his yellow, 
fleshy countenance, replied in the same pitch — 

" Maybe. But if it had been you we would have been 
stuck fast in the mud." 

** Pardon me, Mr. Massy. I beg to deny it. Of course 
a shipowner may say what he jolly well pleases on his 
own deck. That's all right ; but I beg to • . •" 

" Gret out of my way ! " 

The other had a slight start, the impulse of suppressed 
indignation perhaps, but held his ground. Massy's 
downward glance wandered right and left, as though the 
deck all round Sterne had been bestrewn with eggs that 
must not be broken, and he had looked irritably for 
places where he could set his feet in flight. In the end 
he too did not move, though there was plenty of room 
to pass on. 

" I heard you say up there," went on the mate — ^^ and 
a very just remark it was too — that there's always 
something wrong. ..." 

** Eavesdropping is what's wrong with you, Mr. 

" Now, if you would only listen to me for a moment^ 
Mr. Massy, sir, I could . . ." 

** You are a sneak," interrupted Massy in a great 
hurry, and even managed to get so far as to repeat, *^ »> 
common sneak," before the mate had broken in argu^* 
mentatively — 

I «66 1 


** Now, sir, what is it you want? You want . . •'* 


I want — I want," stammered Massy, infuriated and 
astonished — " I want. How do you know that I want 
anything? How dare you? . . . What do you 
mean? • . . What are you after — ^you . . /' 

"Promotion.** Sterne silenced him with candid brav- 
ado. The engineer's round soft cheeks quivered still, 
but he said quietly enough — 

" You are only worrying my head off," and Sterne 
met him with a confident little smile. 

" A chap in business I know (well up in the world 
he is now) used to tell me that this was the proper way. 
* Always push on to the front,' he would say. * Keep 
yourself well before your boss. Interfere whenever you 
get a chance. Show him what you know. Worry him 
into seeing you.' That was his advice. Now I know 
no other boss than you here. You are the owner, and 
no one else counts for that much in my eyes. See, Mr. 
Massy? I want to get on. I make no secret of it that 
I am one of the sort that means to get on. These are 
the men to make use of, sir. You haven't arrived at 
the top of the tree, sir, without finding that out — ^I 
dare say." 

"Worry your boss in order to get on,'* repeated 
Massy, as if awestruck by the irreverent originality of 
the idea. " I shouldn't wonder if this was just what the 
Blue Anchor people kicked you out of their employ for. 
Is that w hat you call getting on? You shall get on in 
the same way here if you aren't careful — I can promise 


[S67 ] 


At this Sterne hung his head, thoughtful, perplexed^ 
winking hard at the deck. All his attempts to enter into 
confidential relations with his owner had led of late 
to nothing better than these dark threats of dismissal; 
and a threat of dismissal would check him at once into 
a hesitating silence as though he were not sure that 
the proper time for defying it had come. On this occa- 
sion he seemed to have lost his tongue for a moment, and 
Massy, getting in motion, heavily passed him by with 
an abortive attempt at shouldering. Sterne defeated it 
by stepping aside. He turned then swiftly, opening 
his mouth very wide as if to shout something after the 
engineer, but seemed to think better of it. 

Always — ^as he was ready to confess — en the lookout 
for an opening to get on, it had become an instinct with 
him to watch the conduct of his immediate superiors for 
something " that one could lay hold of.'' It was his 
belief that no skipper in the world would keep his com- 
mand for a day if only the owners could be " made to 
know." This romantic and naive theory had led him 
into trouble more than once, but he remained incorrigi- 
ble; and his character was so instinctively disloyal that 
whenever he joined a ship the intention of ousting his 
commander out of the berth and taking his place was 
always present at the back of his head, as a matter of 
course. It filled the leisure of his waking hours with 
the reveries of careful plans and compromising discov- 
eries — ^the dreams of his sleep with images of lucky 
turns and favorable accidents. Skippers had been 
known to sidcen and die at sea, than which nothing 



could be better to give a smart mate a chance of sbowing 
what he's made of. Thej also would tumble overboard 
sometimes: he had heard of one or two such cases. 
Others again . . . But, as it were constitutionallj, he 
was faithful to the belief that the conduct of no single 
one of them would stand the test of careful watching 
by a man who " knew what's what " and who kept his 
eyes " skinned pretty well " all the time. 

After he had gained a permanent footing on board 
the SofdUt he allowed his perennial hope to rise high. 
To begin with, it was a great advantage to have an old 
man for captain: the sort of man besides who in the 
nature of things was likely to give up the job before 
long from one cause or another. Sterne was greatly 
chagrined, however, to notice that he did not seem any- 
way near being past his work yet. Still, these old men 
go to pieces all at once sometimes. Then there was the 
owner-engineer close at hand to be impressed by his zeal 
and steadiness. Sterne never for a moment doubted the 
obvious nature of his own merits (he was really an ex- 
cellent officer) ; only, nowadays, professional merit alone 
does not take a man along fast enough. A chap must 
have some push in him, and must keep his wits at work 
too to help him forward. He made up his mind to 
inherit the charge of this steamer if it was to be done 
at all; not indeed estimating the command of the 
Sofala as a very great catch, but for the reason that, 
out East especially, to make a start is everything, and 
one command leads to another. 

He began by promising himself to behave with great 



circumspection; Massy's somber and fantastic humors 
intimidated him as being outside one's usual sea experi- 
ence; but he was quite intelligent enough to realize al- 
most from the first that he was there in the presence of 
an exceptional situation. His peculiar prying imagina- 
tion penetrated it quickly; the feeling that there was 
in it an element which eluded his grasp exasperated his 
impatience to get on. And so one trip came to an end, 
then another, and he had begun his third before he saw 
an opening by which he could step in with any sort of 
effect. It had all been very queer and very obscure; 
something had been going on near him, as if separated 
by a chasm from the common life and the working 
routine of the ship, which was exactly like the life and 
the routine of any other coasting steamer of that class. 

Then one day he made his discovery. 

It came to him after all these weeks of watchful ob- 
servation and puzzled surmises, suddenly, like the long- 
sought solution of a riddle that suggests itself to the 
mind in a flash. Not with the same authority, however. 
Great heavens! Could it be that? And after remain- 
ing thunderstruck for a few seconds he tried to shake 
it off with self-continnely, as though it had been the 
product of an unhealthy bias towards the Incredible, 
the Inexplicable, the Unheard-of — the Mad! 

This — the illuminating moment — had occurred the trip 
before, on the return passage. They had just left a 
place of call on the mainland called Pangu; they were 
steaming straight out of a bay. To the east a massive 
headland closed the view, with the tilted edges of the 



rocky strata showing through its ragged clothing of 
rank bushes and thorny creepers. The wind had begun 
to sing in the rigging; the sea along the coast, green 
and as if swollen a little above the line of the horizon, 
seemed to pour itself over, time after time, with a slow 
and thundering fall^ into the shadow of the leeward 
cape; and across the wide opening the nearest of a 
group of small islands stood enveloped in the hazy 
yellow light of a breezy sunrise; still farther out the 
hummocky tops of other islets peeped out motionless 
above the water of the channeb between, scoured 
tumultuously by the breeze. 

The usual track of the Sofala both going and return- 
ing on every trip led her for a few miles along this reef- 
infested region. She followed a broad lane of water, 
dropping astern, one after another, these crumbs of the 
earth's crust resembling a squadron of dismasted hulks 
run in disorder upon a foul ground of rocks and shoals. 
Some of these fragments of land appeared, indeed, no 
bigger than a stranded ship; others, quite flat, lay 
awash like anchored rafts, like ponderous, black rafts 
of stone; several, heavily timbered and round at the 
base, emerged in squat domes of deep green foliage that 
shuddered darkly all over to the flying touch of cloud 
shadows driven by the sudden gusts of the squally sea- 
son. The thunderstorms of the coast broke frequently 
over that cluster; it turned then shadowy in its whole 
extent ; it turned more dark, and as if more still in the 
play of fire ; as if more impenetrably silent in the peals 
of thunder; its blurred shapes vanished — dissolving ut- 



terly at tunes in the thick rain — iQ reappear ckar-oat 
and black in the stormy light against the gray sheet of 
the doud — scattered on the slaty round tabtt of 
the sea. Unscathed by storms, resisting the work of 
years, unfretted by the strife of the world, there it lay 
unchanged as on that day, four hundred years ago, 
when first beheld by Western eyes from the deck of 
a high-pooped caravel. 

It was one of these secluded spots that may be found 
on the busy sea, as on land you come sometimes upon the 
clustered houses of a hamlet untouched by men's rest- 
lessness, untouched by their need, by their thought, and 
as if forgotten by time itself. The lives of uncounted 
generations had passed it by, and the multitudes of sea- 
fowl, urging their way from all the points of the horizon 
to sleep on the outer rocks of the group, unrolled the 
converging evolutions of their flight in long somber 
streamers upon the glow of the sky. The palpitating 
cloud of their wings soared and stooped over the pinna- 
cles of the rocks, over the rocks slender like spires, squat 
like martello towers ; over the pyramidal heaps like f aJlen 
ruins, over the lines of bald bowlders showing like a wall 
of stones battered to pieces and scorched by lightning — 
with the sleepy, clear glimmer of water in every breach. 
The noise of their continuous and violent screaming 
filled the air. 

This great noise would meet the Sofdla coming up from 
Batu Beru ; it would meet her on quiet evenings, a piti^ 
less and savage clamor enfeebled by distance, the 
elamor of seabirds settling to rest, and struggling for 



a footing at the end of the day. No one noticed it 
especially on board ; it was the voice of their ship's un- 
erring landfall, ending the steady stretch of a hundred 
miles. She had made good her course, she had run her 
distance till the punctual islets began to emerge one by 
one, the points of rocks, the hummocks of earth • . • 
and the cloud of birds hovered — ^the restless cloud emit- 
ting a strident and cruel uproar, the sound of the fa- 
miliar scene, the living part of the broken land beneath, 
of the outspread sea, and of the high sky without a 

But when the Sofala happened to close with the land 
after sunset she would find everything very still there 
under the mantle of the night. All would be still, dumb, 
almost invisible — ^but for the blotting out of the low 
constellations occulted in turns behind the vague masses 
of the islets whose true outlines eluded the eye amongst 
the dark spaces of the heaven : and the ship's three lights, 
resembling three stars — ^the red and the green with the 
white above — ^her three lights, like three companion 
stars wandering on the earth, held their unswerving 
course for the passage at the southern end of the group. 
Sometimes there were human eyes open to watch them 
come nearer, traveling smoothly in the somber void ; the 
eyes of a naked fisherman in his canoe floating over a 
reef. He thought drowsily : " Ha ! The fire-ship that 
once in every moon goes in and comes out of Pangu 
Bay." More he did not know of her. And just as he 
had detected the faint rhythm of the propeller beating 
the calm water a mile and a half away, the time would 

[ 278 I 


come for the Sofala to alter her course, the lights would 
swing off him their triple beam-— And disappear. 

A few miserable, half -naked families, a sort of outcast 
tribe of long-haired, lean, and wild-eyed people, strove 
for their living in this lonely wilderness of islets, lying 
like an abandoned outwork of the land at the gates of 
the bay. Within the knots and loops of the rocks the 
water rested more transparent than crystal under their 
crooked and leaky canoes, scooped out of the trunk of 
a tree: the forms of the bottom undulated slightly to 
the dip of a paddle ; and the men seemed to hang in the 
air, they seemed to hang inclosed within the fibers of a 
dark, sodden log, fishing patiently in a strange, un- 
steady, pellucid, green air above the shoals. 

Their bodies stalked brown and emaciated as if dried 
up in the sunshine; their lives ran out silently; the 
homes where they were bom, went to rest, and died — • 
flimsy sheds of rushes and coarse grass eked out with 
a few ragged mats — ^were hidden out of sight from the 
open sea. No glow of their household fires ever kindled 
for a seaman a red spark upon the blind night of the 
group: and the calms of the coast, the flaming long 
calms of the equator, the unbreathing, concentrated 
calms like the deep introspection of a passionate nature, 
brooded awfully for days and weeks together over the 
unchangeable inheritance of their children; till at last 
the stones, hot like live embers, scorched the naked sole, 
till the water clung warm, and sickly, and as if thick- 
ened, about the legs of lean men with girded loins, wad- 
ing thigh-deep in the pale blaze of the shallows. And 

[ 274 ] 


it would happen now and then that the Sofdla^ through 
some delay in one of the ports of call, would heave in 
sight making for Pangu Bay as late as noonday. 

Only a blurring cloud at first, the thin mist of her 
smoke would arise mysteriously from an empty point on 
the clear line of sea and sky. The taciturn fishermen 
within the reefs would extend their lean arms towards 
the offing; and the brown figures stooping on the tiny 
beaches, the brown figures of men, women, and children 
grubbing in the sand in search of turtles' eggs, would 
rise up, crooked elbow aloft and hand over the eyes, to 
watch this monthly apparition glide straight on, swerve 
off — ^and go by. Their ears caught the panting of that 
ship ; their eyes followed her till she passed between the 
two capes of the mainland going at full speed as though 
she hoped to make her way unchecked into the very 
bosom of the earth. 

On such days the luminous sea would give no sign of 
the dangers lurking on both sides of her path. Every- 
thing remained still, crushed by the overwhelming power 
of the light; and the whole group, opaque in the sun- 
shine, — ^the rocks resembling pinnacles, the rocks resem- 
bling spires, the rocks resembling ruins; the forms of 
islets resembling beehives, resembling mole-hills, the 
islets recalling the shapes of haystacks, the contours of 
ivy-clad towers, — ^would stand reflected together upside 
down in the unwrinkled water, like carved toys of ebony 
disposed on the silvered plate-glass of a mirror. 

The first touch of blowing weather would envelop the 
whole at once in the spmne of the windward breakers, 



as if in a sudden cloudlike burst of steam ; and the dear 
water seemed fairly to boil in all the passages. The 
provoked sea outlined exactly in a design of angry foam 
the wide base of the group; the submerged level of 
broken waste and refuse left over from the building of 
the coast near by, projecting its dangerous spurs, all 
awash, far into the channel, and bristling with wicked 
long spits often a mile long: with deadly spits made of 
froth and stones. 

And even nothing more than a brisk breeze — as on 
that morning, the voyage before, when the Sofala left 
Pangu Bay early, and Mr. Sterne's discovery was to 
blossom out like a flower of incredible and evil aspect 
from the tiny seed of instinctive suspicion, — even such 
a breeze had enough strength to tear the placid mask 
from the face of the sea. To Sterne, gazing with indif- 
ference, it had been like a revelation to behold for the 
first time the dangers marked by the hissing livid 
patches on the water as distinctly as on the engraved 
paper of a chart. It came into his mind that this was 
the sort of day most favorable for a stranger attempt- 
ing the passage : a clear day, just windy enough for 
the sea to break on every ledge, buoying, as it were, 
the channel plainly to the sight ; whereas during a calm 
you had nothing to depend on but the compass and the 
practiced judgment of your eye. And yet the suc- 
cessive captains of the Sofala had had to take her 
through at night more than once. Nowadays you could 
not afford to throw away six or seven hours of a 
steamer's time. That you couldn't. But then use is 

[ a76 ] 


everything, and with proper care . • . The channel 
was broad and safe enough; the main point was to hit 
upon the entrance correctly in the dark — for if a man 
got himself involved in that stretch of broken water 
over yonder he would never get out with a whole ship — 
if he ever got out at all. 

This was Sterne's last train of thought independent 
of the great discovery. He had just seen to the secur^ 
ing of the anchor, and had remained forward idling 
Away a moment or two. The captain was in charge on 
the bridge. With a slight yawn he had turned away 
from his survey of the sea and had leaned Ids shoulders 
against the fish davit. 

These, properly speaking, were the very last moments 
of ease he was to know on board the Sofala. All the 
instants that came after were to be pregnant with pur- 
pose and intolerable with perplexity. No more idle, 
random thoughts ; the discovery would put them on the 
rack, till sometimes he wished to goodness he had been 
fool enough not to make it at all. And yet, if his 
chance to get on rested on the discovery of " something 
wrong," he could not have hoped for a greater stroke 
of luck. 

The knowledge was too disturbing, really. There was 
" something wrong " with a vengeance, and the moral 
certitude of it was at first simply frightful to contem- 
plate. Sterne had been looking aft in a mood so idle, 
that for once he was thinking no harm of anyone. His 

[ m ] 


3aptain on the bridge presented himself naturally to 
his sight. How insignificant, how casual was the 
thought that had started the train of discovery — ^like an 
accidental spark that suffices to ignite the charge of a 
tremendous mine! 

Caught under by the breeze, the awnings of the fore- 
deck bellied upwards and collapsed slowly, and above 
their heavy flapping the gray stuff of Captain Whalley's 
roomy coat fluttered incessantly around his arms and 
trunk. He faced the wind in full light, with his great 
silvery beard blown forcibly against his chest; the eye- 
brows overhung heavily the shadows whence his glance 
appeared to be staring ahead piercingly. Sterne could 
just detect the twin gleam of the whites shifting under 
the shaggy arches of the brow. At short range these 
eyes, for all the man's affable manner, seemed to look 
you through and through. Sterne never could defend 
himself from that feeling when he had occasion to speak 
with his captain. He did not like it. What a big 
heavy man he appeared up there, with that Kttle 
shrimp of a Serang in close attendance — ^as was usual 
in this extraordinary steamer ! Confounded absurd cus- 
tom that. He resented it. Surely the old fellow could 
have looked after his ship without that loafing native 
at his elbow. Sterne wriggled his shoulders with dis- 
gust. What was it? Indolence or what? 

That old skipper must have been growing lazy for 
years. They all grew lazy out East here (Sterne was 
very conscious of his own unimpaired activity) ; they 
got slack all over. But he towered very erect on the 



bridge; and quite low by his side, as you see a small 
child looking over the edge of a table, the battered soft 
hat and the brown face of the Serang peeped over the 
white canvas screen of the rail. 

No doubt the Malay was standing back, nearer to the 
wheel; but the great disparity of size in close associa- 
tion amused Sterne like the observation of a bizarre fact 
in nature. There were as queer fish out of the sea as 
any in it. 

He saw Captain Whalley turn his head quickly to 
speak to his Serang; the wind whipped the whole white 
mass of the beard sideways. He would be directing the 
chap to look at the compass for him, or what not. Of 
course. Too much trouble to step over and see for him- 
self. Sterne's scorn for that bodily indolence which 
overtakes white men in the East increased on reflection. 
Some of them would be utterly lost if ithey hadn't all 
these natives at their beck and call ; they grew perfectly 
shameless about it too. He was not of that sort, thank 
God ! It wasn't in him to make himself dependent for 
his work on any shriveled-up little Malay like that. As 
if one could ever trust a silly native for anything in 
the world! But that fine old man thought differently, 
it seems. There they were together, never far apart; 
a pair of them, recalling to the mind an old whale at- 
tended by a little pilot-fish. 

The fancifulness of the comparison made him smile. 
A whale with an inseparable pilot-fish! That's what 
the old man looked like; for it could not be said he 
looked like a shark, though Mr. Massy had csdled him 

I 279 ] 


that very name. But Mr. Massy did not mind what he 
«aid in his savage fits. Sterne smiled to himself — and 
gradually the ideas evoked by the sound, by the im- 
agined shape of the word pilot-fish ; the ideas of aid, of 
guidance needed and received, came uppermost in his 
mind: the word pilot awakened the idea of trust, of 
dependence, the idea of welcome, clear-eyed help brought 
to the seaman groping for the land in the dark : groping 
blindly in fogs: feeling his way in the thick weather 
of the gales that, filling the air with a salt mist blown 
up from the sea, contract the range of sight on all 
sides to a shrunken horizon that seems within reach of 
tlie hand. 

A pilot sees better than a stranger, because his local 
knowledge, like a sharper vision, completes the shapes 
of things hurriedly glimpsed; penetrates the veils of 
mist spread over the land by the storms of the sea ; de- 
fines with certitude the outlines of a coast lying under 
the pall fog, the forms of landmarks half buried in a 
starless night as in a shallow grave. He recognizes be 
cause he already knows. It is not to his far-reaching 
eye but to his more extensive knowledge that the pilot 
looks for certitude ; for this certitude of the ship's posi- 
tion on which may depend a man's good fame and the 
peace of his conscience, the justification of the trust 
deposited in his hands, with his own life too, which is 
seldom wholly his to throw away, and the humble lives 
of others rooted in distant affections, perhaps, and made 
as weighty as the lives of kings by the burden of the 
awaiting mystery. The pilot's knowledge brings relief 


and certitude to the commander of a ship ; the Serang, 
however, in his fanciful suggestion of a pilot-fish at- 
tending a whale, co\ild not in any way be credited with 
a superior knowledge. Why should he have it? These 
two men had come on that run together — ^the white and 
the brown — on the same day : and of course a white man 
would learn more in a week than the best native would 
in a month. He was made to stick to the skipper as 
though he were of some use — as the pilot-fish, they say, 
is to the whale. But how — ^it was very marked — ^how? 
A pilot-fish — ^a pilot — a . . • But if not superior 
knowledge then . . . 

Sterne's discovery was made. It was repugnant to his 
imagination, shocking to liis ideas of honesty, shocking 
to his conception of mankind. This enormity affected 
one's outlook on what was possible in this world: it was 
as if for instance the sun had turned blue, throwing a 
new and sinister light on men and nature. Really in 
the first moment he had felt sickish, as though he had 
got a blow below the belt : for a second the very color 
of the sea seemed changed — ^appeared queer to his wan- 
dering eye ; and he had a passing, unsteady sensation in 
all his limbs as though the earth had started turning 
the other way, 

A very natural incredulity succeeding this sense of 
upheaval brought a measure of relief. He had gasped ; 
it was over. But afterwards during all that day sudden 
paroxysms of wonder would come over him in the midst 
of his occupations. He would stop and shake his head. 
The revolt of his incredulity had passed away ahnost m 


rjuick as the first emotion of discovery, and for the ne^et 
twenty-four hours he had no sleep. That would never 
do. At meal-times (he took the foot of the table set 
up for the white men on the bridge) he could not help 
losing himself in a fascinated contemplation of Captain 
Whalley opposite. He watched the deliberate upward 
movements of the arm ; the old man put his food to his 
lips as though he never expected to find any taste in 
his daily bread, as though he did not know anything 
about it. He fed himself like a somnambulist. " It's an 
awful sight," thought Sterne; and he watched the long 
period of mournful, silent immobility, with a big brown 
hand lying loosely closed by the side of the plate, till 
he noticed the two engineers to the right and left look' 
ing at him in astonishment. He would close his mouth 
in a hurry then, and lowering his eyes, wink rapidly at 
his plate. It was awful to see the old chap sitting 
there ; it was even awful to think that with three words 
he co\ild blow him up sky-high. All he had to do was 
to raise his voice and pronounce a single short sentence, 
and yet that simple act seemed as impossible to attempt 
as moving the sun out of its place in the sky. The old 
chap could eat in his terrific mechanical way ; but Sterne, 
from mental excitement, could not — ^not that evening, 
at any rate. 

He had had ample time since to get accustomed to the 
strain of the meal-hours. He would never have believed 
it. But then use is everything; only the very potency 
of his success prevented anything resembling elation. 
He felt like a man who, in his legitimate search for a 

[ 282 ] 


loaded gun to help him on his way through the world, 
chances to come upon a torpedo — ^upon a live torpedo 
with a shattering charge in its head and a pressure of 
many atmospheres in its tail. It is the sort of weapon 
to make its possessor careworn and nervous. He had 
no mind to be blown up himself; and he could not get 
rid of the notion that the explosion was bound to damage 
him too in some way. 
This vague apprehension had restrained him at first. 
He was able now to eat and sleep with that fearful 
weapon by his side, with the conviction of its power 
always in his mind. It had not been arrived at by any 
reflective process; but once the id,fA had entered his 
head, the conviction had followed qjprwhelmingly in a 
multitude of observed little facts to which before he had 
given only a languid attention. The abrupt and falter- 
ing intonations of the deep voice; the taciturnity put 
on like an armor; the deliberate, as if guarded, move- 
ments; the long immobilities, as if the man he watched 
. had been afraid to disturb the very air: every familiar 
gesture, every word uttered in his hearing, every sigh 
overheard, had acquired a special significance, a con- 
firmatory import. 
Every day that passed over the Sofala appeared to 
. Sterne simply crammed full with proofs — ^with incon- 
^k trovertible proofs. At night, when off duty, he would 
, steal out of his cabin in pyjamas (for more proofs) and 
stand a full hour, perhaps, on his bare feet below the 
bridge, as absolutely motionless as the awning stanchion 
in its deck socket near by. On th^ stretches of easy 

[ 283 ] 



navigation it is not usual for a coasting captain to re- 
main on deck all the time of his watch. The Serang 
keeps it for him as a matter of custom; in open water, < 
on a straight course, he is usually trusted to look after 
the ship by himself. But this old man seemed incapable 
of remaining quietly down below. No doubt he could 
not sleep. And no wonder. This was also a proof. 
Suddenly in the silence of the ship panting upon the 
stilly dark sea, Sterne would hear a low voice above kim 
exclaiming nervously — 

** Serang ! '' 


" You are watching the compass well? ** 

** Yes, I am watching, Tuan." 

" The ship is making her course? " 

" She is, Tuan. Very straight." 

" It is well ; and remember, Serang, that the arder 
is that you are to mind the helmsmen and keep a look- 
out with care, the same as if I were not on deck." 

Then, when the Serang had made his answer, the low 
tones on the bridge would cease, and everything round 
Sterne seemed to become more still and more profoundly 
silent. Slightly chilled and with his back aching a little 
from long immobility, he would steal away to his room 
on the port side of the deck. He had long since parted 
with the last vestige of incredulity; of the original 
emotions, set into a tumult by the discovery, some trace 
of the first awe alone remained. Not the awe of the 
man himself — ^he could blow him up sky-high with six 
words — ^rather it was an awestruck indignation at the 



reckless perversity of ayarioe (what else could it be?), 
at the jnad and somber resolution that for the sake of a 
few dollars more seemed to set at naught the common 
rule of conscience and pretended to struggle against 
the very decree of Providence. 

You could not find another man like this one in the 
whole round world — ^thank God. There was something 
devilishly dauntless in the character of such a deception 
which made you pause. 

Other considerations occurring to his prudence had 
kept him tongue-tied from day to day. It seemed to 
him now that it would yet have been easier to speak out 
in the first hour of discovery. He almost regretted not 
having made a row at once. But then the very mon- 
strosity of the disclosure . • . Why! he could hardly 
face it himself, let alone pointing it out to somebody 
else. Moreover, with a desperado of that sort one never 
knew. The object was not to get him out (that was 
as well as done already), but to step into his place. 
Bizarre as the thought seemed he might have shown 
fight. A fellow up to working such a fraud would have 
enough cheek for anything; a fellow that, as it were, 
stood up against God Almighty Himself. He was a 
horrid marvel — ^that's what he was: he was perfectly 
capable of brazening out the affair scandalously till he 
got him (Sterne) kicked out of the ship and everlast- 
^gly damaged his prospects in this part of the East. 
Yet if you want to get on something must be risked. At 
times Sterne thought he had been unduly timid of taking 
action in the past; and what was worse, it had come to 

[ S85 ] 


this, that in the present he did not seem to know what 
action to take. 

Massy's savage moroseness was too disconcerting. It 
was an incalculable factor of the situation. You could 
not tell what there was behind that insulting ferocity. 
How could one trust such a temper? it did not put 
Sterne in bodily fear for himself, but it frightened him 
exceedingly as to his prospects. 

Though of course inclined to credit himself with ex- 
ceptional powers of observation, he had by now lived 
too long with his discovery. He had gone on looking 
at nothing else, till at last one day it occurred to him 
that the thing was so obvious that no one could miss 
seeing it. There were four white men in all on board 
the Sofcia. Jack, the second engineer, was too dull to 
notice anything that took place out of his engine-room. 
Remained Massy — ^the owner — ^the interested person — 
nearly going mad with worry. Sterne had heard and 
seen more than enough on board to know what ailed him ; 
but his exasperation seemed to make him deaf to cau- 
tious overtures. If he had only known it, there was the 
very thing he wanted. But how could you bargain with 
a man of that sort? It was like going into a tiger's den 
with a piece of raw meat in your hand. He was as 
likely as not to rend you for your pains. In fact, he 
was always threatening to do that very thing; and the 
urgency of the case, combined with the impossibility of 
handling it with safety, made Sterne in his watches below 
toss and mutter open-eyed in his bunk, for hours, as 
though he had been burning with fever. 



Occurrences like the crossing of the bar just now were 
extremely alarming to his prospects. He did not want 
to be left behind by some swift catastrophe. Massy be- 
ing on the bridge, the old man had to brace himself up 
and make a show, he supposed. But it was getting very 
bad with him, very bad indeed, now. Even Massy had 
been emboldened to find fault this time; Sterne, listen- 
ing at the foot of the ladder, had heard the other's 
whimpering and artless denunciations. Luckily the 
beast was very stupid and could not see the why of all 
this. However, small blame to him ; it took a clever man 
to hit upon the cause. Nevertheless, it was high time to 
do something. The old man's game could not be kept 
up for many days more. 

" I may yet lose my life at this fooling — ^let alone my 
chance," Sterne mimibled angrily to himself, after the 
stooping back of the chief engineer had disappeared 
round the comer of the skylight. Yes, no doubt — ^he 
thought; but to blurt out his knowledge would not ad- 
vance his prospects. On the contrary, it would blast 
them utterly as likely as not. He dreaded another 
failure. He had a vague consciousness of not being 
much liked by his fellows in this part of the world ; inex- 
plicably enough, for he had done nothing to them. 
Envy, he supposed. People were always down on a 
clever chap who made no bones about his determination 
to get on. To do your duty and count on the gratitude 
of that brute Massy would be sheer folly. He was a bad 
lot. Unmanly ! A vicious man ! Bad ! Bad ! A brute ! 

i brute without a spark of anything human about him ; 

[ 887 ] 


without so much as simple curiosity eyen, or else surelj 
ha would have responded in some way to all these hints 
he had been given. • . • Such insensibility was almost 
mysterious. Massy's state of exasperation seemed to 
Sterne to have made him stupid beyond the ordinary 
silliness of shipowners. 

Sterne, meditating on the embarrassments of that stu- 
pidity, forgot himself completely. His stony, unwink- 
ing stare was fixed on the planks of the deck. 

The slight quiver agitating the whole fabric of the 
ship was more perceptible in the silent river, shaded and 
still like a forest path. The SofaUiy gliding with an 
even motion,, had passed beyond the coast-belt of mud 
and mangroves. The shores rose higher, in firm slop- 
ing banks, and the forest of big trees came down to the 
brink. Where the earth had been crumbled by the 
floods it showed a steep brown cut, denuding a mass of 
roots intertwined as if wrestling underground; and in 
the air, the interlaced boughs, bound and loaded with 
creepers, carried on the struggle for life, mingled their 
foliage in one solid wall of leaves, with here and there 
the shape of an enormous dark pillar soaring, or a 
ragged opening, as if torn by the flight of a cannon- 
ball, disclosing the impenetrable gloom within, the 
secular inviolable shade of the virgin forest. The 
thump of the engines reverberated regularly like the 
strokes of a metronome beating the measure of the vast 
silence, the shadow of the western wall had fallen across 
the river, and the smoke pouring backwards from the 
funnel eddied down behind the ship, spread a thin 



dusky veil over the somber water, which, checked hj 
the flood-tide, seemed to lie stagnant in the whole 
straight length of the reaches. 

Sterne » body, as if rooted on the spot, trembled slightly 
from top to toe with the internal vibration of the ship ; 
from under his feet came sometimes a sudden clang of 
iron, the noisy burst of a shout below; to the right the 
leaves of the tree-tops caught the rays of the low sun, 
and seemed to shine with a golden green light of their 
own shimmering around the highest boughs which stood 
out black against a smooth blue sky that seemed^ to 
droop over the bed of the river like the roof of a tent. 
The passengers for Batu Beru, kneeling on the planks, 
were engaged in rolling their bedding of mats busily; 
they tied up bundles, they snapped the locks of wooden 
chests. A pockmarked peddler of small wares threw his 
head back to drain into his throat the last drops out of 
an earthenware bottle before putting it away in a roll 
of blankets. Knots of traveling traders standing about 
the deck conversed in low tones ; the followers of a small 
Rajah from down the coast, broad-faced, simple young 
fellows in white drawers and round white cotton caps 
with their colored sarongs twisted across their bronze 
shoulders, squatted on their hams on the hatch, chewing 
betel with bright red mouths as if they had been tasting 
blood. Their spears, lying piled up together within the 
circle of their bare toes, resembled a casual bundle of 
dry bamboos; a thin, livid Chinaman, with a bulky 
package wrapped up in leaves already thrust under his 
arm, gazed ahead eagerly; a wandering Kling rubbed 

[ 889 ] 


his teeth with a bit of wood, pouring over the side a 
bright stream of water out of his lips; the fat Hajah 
do2ed in a shabby deck-chair, — and at the turn of every 
bend the two walls of leaves reappeared running 
parallel along the banks, with their impenetrable solidity 
fading at the top to a vaporous mistiness of coimtless 
slender twigs growing free, of young delicate branches 
shooting from the topmost limbs of hoary trunks, of 
feathery heads of climbers like delicate silver sprays 
standing up without a quiver. There was not a sign 
of a clearing anywhere; not a trace of human habita- 
tion, except when in one place, on the bare end of a low 
point under an isolated group of slender tree-ferns, the 
JAggcd, tangled remnants of an old hut on piles ap- 
peared with that peculiar aspect of ruined bamboo walls 
that look as if smashed with a club. Farther on, half 
hidden under the drooping bushes, a canoe containing 
a man and a woman, together with a dozen green cocoa- 
nuts in a heap, rocked helplessly after the SofcHa had 
passed, like a navigating contrivance of venturesome 
insects, of traveling ants; while two glassy folds of 
water streaming away from each bow of the steamer 
across the whole width of the river ran with her up 
stream smoothly, fretting their outer ends into a brown 
whispering tumble of froth against the miry foot of 
each bank. 

" I must,'* thought Sterne, " bring that brute Massy 
to his bearings. It's getting too absurd in the end. 
Here's the old man up there buried in his chair — ^he 
may just as well be in his grave for all the use he'll ever 

[ «90 ] 


be in the world — ^and the Serang*s in charge. Because 
that's what he is. In charge. In the place that's mine 
by rights. I must bring that savage brute to his bear- 
ings. I'll do it at once, too . . ." 

When the mate made an abrupt start, a little brown 
half-naked boy, with large black eyes, and the string 
of a written charm round his neck, became panic-struck 
at once. He dropped the banana he had been munch- 
ing, and ran to the knee of a grave dark Arab in flow- 
ing robes, sitting like a Biblical figure, incongruously, 
on a yellow tin trunk corded with a rope of twisted 
rattan. The father, unmoved, put out his hand to pat 
the little shaven poll protectingly. 

\ XI 

Sterne crossed the deck upon the track of the chief 
engineer. Jack, the second, retreating backwards down 
the engine-room ladder, and still wiping his hands, 
treated him to an incomprehensible grin of white teeth 
out of his grimy hard face; Massy was nowhere to be 
seen. He miist have gone straight into his berth. 
Sterne scratched at the door softly, then, putting his 
lips to the rose of the ventilator, said — 

" I must speak to you, Mr. Massy. Just give me a 
minute or two." 

" I am busy. Go away from my door/' 

" But pray, Mr. Massy . . ." 
You gt* away. D'you hear? Take yourself off alto- 




gcther — to the other end of the ship — quite away . . .•* 
The voice inside dropped low. " To the devfl." 

Sterne paused: then very quietly — 

" It's rather pressing. When do you think you will 
be at liberty, sir? " 

The answer to this was an exasperated " Never " ; and 
at once Sterne, with a very firm expression of face, 
turned the handle. 

Mr. Massy's stateroom — ^a narrow, one-berth cabin — 
smelt strongly of soap, and presented to view a swept, 
dusted, unadorned neatness, not so much bare as barren, 
not so much severe as starved and lacking in humanity, 
like the ward of a public hospital, or rather (owing to 
the small size) like the clean retreat of a desperately 
poor but exemplary person. Not a single photograph 
frame ornamented the bulkheads ; not a single article of 
clothing, not as much as a spare cap, hung from the 
brass hooks. All the inside was painted in one plain 
tint of pale blue; two big sea-chests in sailcloth covers 
and with iron padlocks fitted exactly in the space under 
the bunk. One glance was enough to embrace all the 
strip of scrubbed planks within the four unconcealed 
corners. The absence of the usual settee was striking; 
the teak-wood top of the washing-stand seemed hermeti- 
cally closed, and so was the lid of the writing-desk, 
which protruded from the partition at the foot of the 
bed-place, containing a mattress as thin as a pancake 
under a threadbare blanket with a faded red stripe, and 
a folded mosquito-net against the nights spent in harbor. 
There was not a scrap of paper anywhere in sighty no 



boots on the floor, no litter of any sort, not a speck of 
dufit anywhere; no traces of pipe-ash even, which, in 
a heavy smoker, was morally revolting, like a manifesta- 
tion of extreme hypocrisy; and the bottom of the old 
wooden arm-chair (the only seat there), polished with 
much use^i shone as if its shabbiness had ^^en waxed. 
The screen of leaves on the bank, passing as if unrolled 
endlessly in the round opening of the port, sent a waver- 
ing network of Ught and shade into the place. 

Sterne, holding the door open with one hand, had thrust 
in his head and shoulders. At this amazing intrusion 
Massy, who was doing absolutely nothing, jumped up 

" Don't call names," murmured Sterne hurriedly. " I 
won^t be called names. I think of nothing but your 
good, Mr. Massy." 

A pause as of extreme astonishment followed. They 
both seemed to have lost their tongues. Then the mate 
went on with discreet glibness. 

" You simply couldn't conceive what's going on on 
board your ship. It wouldn't enter your head for a 
moment. You are too good — ^too — too upright, Mr. 
Massy, to suspect anybody of such a . . . It's enough 
to make your hair stand on end." 

He watched for the effect: Massy seemed dazed, un- 
comprehending. He only passed the palm of his hand 
on the coal-black wisps plastered across the top of his 
head. In a tone suddenly changed to confidential au- 
dacity Sterne hastened on. 

** Remember that there's only six weeks left to 



run . • •" The other was looking at him stonily • • « 
'* so anyhow you shall require a captain for the ship 
before long.'* 

Then only, as if that suggestion had scarified his flesh 
in the manner of red-hot iron, Massy gave a start and 
seemed reac^y to shriek. He contained himself by a 
great effort. 

" Require a captain,'* he repeated with scathing slow- 
ness. '^ Who requires a captain? You dare tell me 
that I need any of you humbugging sailors to run my 
ship. You and your likes have been fattening on me 
for years. It would have hurt me less to throw 
my money overboard. Pam — pe — red us — e — ^less 
f-f-f-frauds. The old ship knows as much as the best 
of you." He snapped his teeth audibly and growled 
through them, " The silly law requires a captain." 

Sterne had taken heart of grace meantime. 

" And the silly insurance people too, as well," he salcl 
lightly. ** But never mind that. What I want to ask 
is: Why shouldn't / do, sir? I don't say but you could 
take a steamer about the world as well as any of us 
sailors. I don't pretend to tell you that it is a very 
great trick . . ." He emitted a short, hollow guffaw, 
familiarly . • . " I didn't make the law — ^but there it 
is ; and I am an active young fellow ! I quite hold with 
your ideas ; I know your ways by this time, Mr. Massy. 
I wouldn't try to give myself airs like that — ^that — er — 
lazy specimen of an old man up there." 

He put a marked emphasis on the last sentence, to 
lead Massy away from the track in case • • • but he 



did not dcKibt of now holding his success. The chief 
engineer seemed nonplused, like a slow man invited to 
catch hold of a whirligig of some sort. 

** What you want, sir, is a chap with no nonsense about 
him, who would be content to be your sailing-master. 
Quite right, too. Well, I am fit for the work as much 
as that Serang. Because that's what it amounts to. 
Do you know, sir, that a dam' Malay like a monkey is 
in charge of your ship — and no one else. Just listen 
to his feet pit-patting above us on the bridge — real 
officer in charge. He's taking her up the river while 
the giieat man is wallowing in the chair — ^perhaps asleep ; 
and if he is, that would not make it much worse either — 
take my word for it." 

He tried to thrust himself farther in. Massy, with 
lowered forehead, one hand grasping the back of the 
arm-chair, did not budge. 

"You think, sir, that the man has got you tight in 
his agreement . . ." Massy raised a heavy snarling 
face at this . . . "Well, sir, one can't help hearing 
of it on board. It's no secret. And it has been the 
talk on shore for years ; fellows have been making bets 
about it. No, sir ! It's you who have got him at your 
mercy. You will say that you can't dismiss him for 
indolence. Difficult to prove in court, and so on. Why, 
yes. But if you say the word, sir, I can tell you some- 
thing about his indolence that will give you the clear 
right to fire him out on the spot and put me in charge 
for the rest of this very trip — ^yes, sir, before we leave 
Batu Bern — and make him pay a dollar a day for his 

I 296 ] 


keep till we get back, if you like. Now, what do jmn 
think of that? Come, sir. Say the word. It'0 really 
well worth your while, and I am quite ready to take 
your bare word. A deiSnite statement from you woidd 
be as good as a bond." 

His eyes began to shine. He insisted. A simple state- 
ment, — and he thought to himself that he would man- 
age somehow to stick in his berth as long as it suited 
him. He would make himself indispensable; the ship 
had a bad name in her port; it would be easy to scare 
the fellows off. Massy would have to keep him. 

** A definite statement from me would be enough," 
Massy repeated slowly. 

** Yes, sir. It would." Sterne stuck out his chin 
cheerily and blinked at close quarters with that uncon- 
scious impudence which had the power to enrage Mas&y 
beyond anything. 

The engineer spoke very distinctiy. 

" Listen well to me, then, Mr. Sterne : I wouldn't — 
d'ye hear? — I wouldn't promise you the value of two 
pence for anything you can tell me." 

He struck Sterne's arm away with a smart blow, and 
catching hold of the handle pulled the door to. The 
terrific slam daikened the cabin instantaneously to his 
eyes as if after the flash of an explosion. At once he 
dropped into the chair. " Oh, no ! You don't ! " he 
whispered faintly. 

The ship had in that place to shave the bank so close 
that the gigantic wall of leaves came gliding like a 
shutter against the port; the darkness of the primeval 


forest seemed to flow into that bare cabio with the odor 
of rotting leaves, of sodden soil — ^the strong muddy smell 
of the liring earth steaming uncovered after the pass- 
ing of a deluge. The bushes swished loudly alongside; 
above there was a series of crackling sounds, with a 
sharp rain of small broken branches falling on the 
bridge; a creeper with a great rustle snapped on the 
head of a boat davit, and a long, luxuriant green twig 
actually whipped in and out of the open port, leaving 
behind a few torn leaves that remained suddenly at rest 
on Mr. Massy's blanket. Then, the ship sheering out 
in the stream, the light began to retium, but did not 
augment beyond a subdued clearness: for the sun was 
very low already, and the river, wending its sinuous 
course through a multitude of secular trees as if at the 
bottom of a precipitous gorge, had been already in- 
vaded by a deepening gloom — ^the swift precursor of 
the night. 

" Oh, no, you don't ! " murmured the engineer again. 
His lips trembled almost imperceptibly; his hands too, 
a little : and to calm himself he opened the writing-desk, 
spread out a sheet of thin grayish paper covered with 
a mass of printed figures and began to scan them at- 
tentively for the twentieth time this trip at least. 

With his elbows propped, his head between his hands, 
he seemed to lose himself in the study of an abstruse 
problem in mathematics. It was the list of the winning 
numbers from the last drawing of the great lottery 
which had been the one inspiring fact of so many years 
of hia existence. The conception of a life deprived of 





that periodical sheet of paper had slipped away from 
him entirely, as another man, according to his nature, 
would not have been able to conceive a world without 
fresh air, without activity, or without affection. A 
great pile of flimsy sheets had been growing for years 
in his desk, while the Sofala^ driven by the faithful 
Jack, wore out her boilers in tramping up and down the 
Straits, from cape to cape, from river to river, from 
bay to bay; accumulating by that hard labor of an 
overworked, starved ship the blackened mass of these 
docmnents. Massy kept them under lock and key like 
a treasure. There was in them, as in the experience 
of life, the fascination of hope, the excitement of a half- 
penetrated mystery, the longing of a halfnsatisfied 

For days together, on a trip, he would shut himself 
up in his berth with them: the thump of the toiling 
engines pulsated in his ear; and he would weary his 
brain poring over the rows of disconnected figures, be- 
wildering by their senseless sequence, resembling the 
hazards of destiny itself. He nourished a conviction 
that there must be some logic lurking somewhere in the 
results of chance. He thought he had seen its very 
form. His head swam; his limbs ached; he puffed at 
his pipe mechanically; a contemplative stupor would 
soothe the fretfulness of his temper, like the passive 
bodily quietude procured hy a drug, while the intellect 
remains tensely on the stretch. Nine, nine, nought, four, 
two. He made a note. The next winning niunber of 
the great prize was forty-seven thousand and five. These 

[ «98 ] 



numbers of course would have to be avoided in the future 
when writing to Manilla for the tickets. He mumbled» 
pencil in hand ..." and five. Hm . . . hm." He 
wetted his finger : the papers rustled. Ha ! But what's 
this? Three years ago, in the September drawing, it 
was number nine, nought, four, two that took the first 
prize. Most remarkable. There was a hint there of 
a definite rule ! He was afraid of missing some recondite 
principle in the overwhelming wealth of his material. 
What could it be? and for half an hour he would remain 
dead stilly bent low over the desk, without twitching a 
muscle. At his back the whole berth would be thick 
with a heavy body of smoke, as if a bomb had burst 
in there^ unnoticed, unheard. 
At last he would lock up the desk with the decision of 
unshaken confidence, jump up and go out. He would 
walk swiftly back and forth on that part of the f oredeck 
which was kept clear of the lumber and of the bodies of 
the native passengers. They were a great nuisance, but 
they were also a source of profit that could not be dis- 
dained. He needed every penny of prc^t the Sofala 
could make. Little enough it was, in all conscience! 
The incertitude of chance gave him no concern, since 
he had somehow arrived at the conviction that, in the 
course of years, every number was bound to have his 
winning turn. It was simply a matter of time and of 
taking as many tickets as he could afford for every 
drawing. He generally took rather more; all the earn- 
ings of the ship went that way, and also the wages he 
allowed himself as chief engineer, It was the wages he 

[ 299 ] 


paid to others that he begrudged with a reasoned and 
at the same time a passionate regret. He scowled at 
the lascars with their deck brooms, at the quarter- 
masters rubbing the brass rails with greasy rags; he 
was eager to shake his iSst and roar abuse in bad Malay 
at the poor carpenter — a. timid, sickly, opium-fuddled 
Chinaman, in loose blue drawers for all costume, who 
invariably dropped his tools and fled below, with stream- 
ing tail and shaking all over, before the fury of that 
" devil." But it was when he raised up his eyes to the 
bridge where one of these sailor frauds was always 
planted by law in charge of his ship that he felt almost 
dizzy with rage. He abominated them aU; it was an 
old feud, from the time he first went to sea, an un- 
licked cub with a great opinion of himself, in the 
engine-room. The slights that had been put upon him. 
The persecutions he had suffered at the hands of skip- 
pers — of absolute nobodies in a steamship after all. 
And now that he had risen to be a shipowner they were 
Btill a plague to him: he had absolutely to pay away 
precious money to the conceited useless loafers > — ^As if 
a fully qualified engineer — ^who was the owner as well — 
were not fit to be trusted with the whole charge of a 
ship. Well! he made it pretty warm for them; but it 
was a poor consolation. He had come in time to hate 
the ship too for the repairs she required, for the coal- 
bills he had to pay, for the poor beggarly freights she 
earned. He would clench his hand as he walked and hit 
the rail a sudden blow, viciously, as though she could 
be made to feel pain. And yet he could not do without 

[ 300 ] 


her; he needed her; he must hang on to her tooth and 
nail to keep hiB head above water till the -expected floed 
of fortune came sweeping up and landed him safely on 
th^ high shore of his ambition. 

It was now to do nothing, nothing whatever, and have 
plenty of money to do it on. He had tasted of power, 
the highest form of it his limited experience was aware 
of — the power of shipowning. What a deception! 
Vanity of vanities ! He wondered at his folly. He had 
thrown away the substance for the shadow. Of the 
gratification of wealth he did not know enough to excite 
his imagination with any visions of luxury. How could 
he — ^the child of a drunken boiler-maker — going 
straight from the workshop into the engine-room of a 
north-oountry collier! But the notion of the absolute 
idleness of wealth he could very well conceive. He 
reveled in it, to forget his present troubles ; he imagined 
himself walking about the streets of Hull (he knew their 
gutters well as a boy) with his pockets full of sov- 
ereigns. He would buy himself a house; his married 
sisters, their husbands, his old workshop chums, would 
render him infinite homage. There would be nothing 
to think of. His word would be law. He had been out 
of work for a long time before he won his prize, and he 
remembered how Carlo Mariani (commonly known as 
Paunchy Charley), the Maltese hotel-keeper at the 
slummy end of Denham Street, had cringed joyfuHy 
before him in the evening, when the news had come. 
Poor CSiarley, though he made his living by ministering 
to various abject vices, gave credit for their food to 

[ 801 ] 


many a piece of white wreckage. He was naively over- 
joyed at the idea of his old bills being paid, and he 
reckoned confidently on a spell of festivities in the 
cavernous grog-shop downstairs. Massy remembered 
the curious, respectful looks of the " trashy " white men 
in the place. His heart had swelled within him. Massy 
had left Charley's infamous den directly he had realized 
the possibilities open to him, with his nose in the air. 
Afterwards the memory of these adulations was a great 

This was the true power of money, — and no trouble 
with it, nor any thinking required either. He thought 
with difficulty and felt vividly; to his blunt brain the 
problems offered by any ordered scheme of life seemed 
in their cruel toughness to have been put in his way 
by the obvious malevolence of men. As a shipowner 
everyone had conspired to make him a nobody. How 
could he have been such a fool as to purchase that ac- 
cursed ship? He had been abominably swindled ; there 
was no end to this swindling ; and as the difficulties of his 
improvident ambition gathered thicker round him, he 
really came to hate everybody he had ever come in con- 
tact with. A temper naturally irritable and an amazing 
sensitiveness to the claims of his own personality had 
ended by making of life for him a sort of inferno — a 
place where his lost soul had been given up to the tor- 
ment of savage brooding. 

But he had never hated anyone so much as that old 
man who had turned up one evening to save him from 
an utter disaster, — from the conspiracy of the wretched 

[ 808 ] 


sailors. He seemed to have fallen on board from the 
sky. His footsteps echoed on the empty steamer, and 
the strange deep-toned voice on deck repeating inter- 
rogatively the words, " Mr. Massy, Mr. Massy there? " 
had been startling like a wonder. And coming up from 
the depths of the cold engine-room, where he had been 
pottering dismally with a candle amongst the enormous 
shadows, thrown on all sides by the skeleton limbs of ma- 
chinery, Massy had been struck dumb by astonishment 
in the presence of that imposing old man with a beard 
like a silver plate, towering in the dusk rendered lurid 
by the expiring flames of sunset. 

" Want to see me on business? What business? I am 
doing no business. Can't you see that this ship is laid 
up?" Massy had turned at bay before the pursuing 
irony of his disaster. Afterwards he could not believe 
his ears. What was that old fellow getting at? Things 
don't happen that way. It was a dream. He would 
presently wake up and find the man vanished like a 
shape of mist. The gravity, the dignity, the firm and 
courteous tone of that athletic old stranger impressed 
Massy. He was almost afraid. But it was no dream. 
Five hundred pounds are no dream. At once he became 
suspicious. What did it mean? Of course it was an 
offer to catch hold of for dear life. But what could 
there be behind? 

Before they had parted, after appointing a meeting 
in a solicitor's office early on the morrow, Massy was 
asking himself. What is his motive? He spent the night 
in hammering out the clauses of the agreement — a 

[ 308 ] 


iiiqu« instrument of its sort whose tenor gdt broltcd. 
Atooad somfthow and bMam« tha talk and wonder of the 

Massj's object had been to secure for himself as many 
ways as possible of getting rid of his partner without 
being called upon at once to pay back his share. Cap- 
tain Whalley's efforts were directed to making the money 
secure. Was it not Ivy's money — a part of her fortune 
whose only other asset was the time-defying body of her 
old father? Sure of his forbearance in the strength of 
his love for her, he accepted, with stately serenity, 
Massy's stupidly cunning paragraphs against his in- 
competence, his dishonesty, his drunkenness, for the sake 
of other stringent stipulations. At the end of three 
years he was at liberty to withdraw from the partner- 
ship, taking his money with him. Provision was made 
for forming a fund to pay him off. But if he left the 
Sofala before the term, from whatever cause (barring 
death). Massy was to have a whole year for paying. 
"Illness?" the lawyer had suggested: a young man 
fresh from Europe and not overburdened with business, 
who was rather amused. Massy began to whine unctu' 
ously, " How could he be expected? . . .'* 

" Let that go,'* Captain Whalley had said with a 
superb confidence in his body. " Acts of God," he 
added. In the midst of life we are in death, but he 
trusted his Maker with a still greater fearlessness — his 
Maker who knew his thoughts, his human affections, and 
his motives. His Creator knew what use he was making 
of his health — ^how much he wanted it ..." I trust 

[ 304 1 


m J flnt illiKM will b» my last. Fve tiever bean ill that 
I can remember j^ he had remarked. ^^ Let it go." 
But at this early stage he had already awakened 
Massy's hostility by refusing to make it six hundred 
instead of five. ^^ I cannot do that," was all he had said, 
simply, but with so much decision that Massy desisted 
at once from pressing the point, but had thought to 
himself, " Can't ! Old curmudgeon. WorCi! He must 
have lots of money, but he would like to get hold of a 
soft berth and the sixth part of my profits for nothing 
if he only could." 

And during these years Massy's dislike grew under the 
restraint of something resembling fear. The simplicity 
of that man appeared dangerous. Of late he had 
changed, however, had appeared less formidable and 
with a lessened vigor of life, as though he had received 
a secret wound. But still he remained incomprehensible 
in his simplicity, fearlessness, and rectitude. And when 
Massy learned that he meant to leave him at the end of 
the time, to leave him confronted with the problem of 
boilers, his dislike blazed up secretly into hate. 
It had made him so clear-eyed that for a long time now 
Mr. Sterne could have told him nothing he did not 
know. He had much ado in trying to terrorize that 
mean sneak into silence; he wanted to deal alone with 
the situation; and — incredible as it might have ap- 
peared to Mr. Sterne — ^he had not yet given up the de- 
sire and the hope of inducing that hated old man to 
stay. Why ! there was nothing else to do, unless he were 
to abandon his chances of fortune. But now, suddenly, 

[ 806 ] 


since the crossing of the bar at Batu Bern things 
seemed to be coming rapidly to a point. It disquieted 
him 80 much that the study of the winning numbers 
failed to soothe his agitation: and the twilight in the 
cabin deepened, very somber. 

He put the list away, muttering once more, " Oh, no, 
my boy, you don't. Not if I know it." He did not 
mean the blinking, eavesdropping humbug to force his 
action. He took his head again into his hands; his im- 
mobility confined in the darkness of this shut-up little 
place seemed to make him a thing apart infinitely re- 
moved from the stir and the sounds of the deck. 

He heard them: the passengers were beginning to 
jabber excitedly; somebody dragged a heavy box 
past his door. He heard Captain WhaUey's voice 
above — 

" Stations, Mr. Sterne." And the answer from some- 
where on deck forward — 

" Ay, ay, sir." 

**We shall moor head up stream this time; the ebb 
has made." 

** Head up stream, sir." 

" You will see to it, Mr. Sterne." 

The answer was covered by the autocratic clang of the 
engine-room gong. The propeller went on beating 
slowly: one, two, three; one, two, three — ^with pauses as 
if hesitating on the turn. The gong clanged time after 
time, and the water churned this way and that by the 
blades was making a great noisy commotion alongside. 
Mr. Massy did not move. A shore-light on the other 

[ 306 ] 


bank, a quarter of a mile across the river, drifted, n« 
bigger than a tiny star, passing slowly athwart the cir- 
cle of the port. Voices from Mr. Van Wyk's jetty an- 
swered the hails from the ship; ropes were thrown and 
missed and thrown again ; the swaying flame of a torch 
carried in a large sampan coming to fetch away in state 
the Rajah from down the coast cast a sudden ruddy 
glare into his cabin, over his very person. Mr. Massy 
did not move. After a few last ponderous turns the 
engines stopped, and the prolonged clanging of the 
gong signified that the captain had done with them. A 
great number of boats and canoes of all sizes boarded 
the ofl^-side of the Sofala. Thien after a time the tumult 
of splashing, of cries, of shuffling feet, of packages 
dropped with a thump, the noise of the native passen- 
gers going away, subsided slowly. On the shore, a 
voice, cultivated, slightly authoritative, spoke very 
close alongside — 
" Brought any mail for me this time? " 
**Yes, Mr. Van Wyk." This was from Sterne, an- 
swering over the rail in a tone of respectful cordiality. 
" Shall I bring it up to you? " 
But the voice asked again — 
" Where's the captain? " 

" Still on the bridge, I believe. He hasn't left hia 
chair. ShaUI . . ." 
The voice interrupted negligently. 
** I will come on board." 

" Mr. Van Wyk," Sterne suddenly broke out with an 
eager effort, " will you do me the favor . • .** 

[ 807 ] 


The mate walked away quickly towards the gangway. 
A silence fell. Mr. Massy in the dark did not move. 

He did not move even when he heard slow shnflKng 
footsteps pass his cabin lazily. He contented himself 
to bellow out through the closed door — 

" You— Jack ! " 

The footsteps came back without haste; the door 
handle rattled, and the second engineer appeared in the 
opening, shadowy in the sheen of the skylight at his 
back, with his face apparently as black as the rest of 
his figure. 

" We have been very long coming up this time," Mr. 
Massy growled, without changing his attitude. 

** What do you expect with half the boiler tubes 
plugged up for leaks." The second defended himself 

" None of your lip," said Massy. 

" None of your rotten boilers — I say," retorted his 
faithful subordinate without animation, huskily. ** Go 
down there and carry a head of steam on them yourself — 
if you dare. I don't." 

" You aren't worth your salt then," Massy said. The 
other made a faint noise which resembled a laugh but 
might have been a snarl. 

" Better go slow than stop the ship altogether," he 
admonished his admired superior. Mr. Massy moved 
at last. He turned in his chair, and grinding his 
teeth — 

"Dam* you and the ship! I wish she were at the 
bottom of the sea. Then you would have to starve.' 

[ 808 ] 



The trusty second engineer closed the door gently. 

Massy listened. Instead of passing on to the bath- 
room where he should have gone to clean himself, the 
second entered his cabin, which was next door. Mr. 
Massy jumped up and waited. Suddenly he heard the 
lock snap in there. He rushed out and gave a violent 
kick to the door. 

" I believe you are locking yourself up to get drunk," 
he shouted. 

A muffled answer came after a while. 

" My own time." 

" If you take to boozing on the trip I'll fire you out," 
Massy cried. 

An obstinate silence followed that threat. Massy 
moved away perplexed. On the bank two figures ap- 
peared, approaching the gangway. He heard a voice 
tinged with contempt— 

" I would rather doubt your word. But I shall cer- 
tainly speak to him of this." 

The other voice, Sterne's, said with a sort of regretful 
formality — 

" Thanks. That's all I want. I must do my duty." 

Mr. Massy was surprised. A short, dapper figure 
leaped lightly on the deck and nearly bounded into him 
where he stood beyond the circle of light from the gang- ' 
way lamp. When it had passed towards the bridge, 
after exchanging a hurried " Grood evening," Massy 
said surlily to Sterne who followed with slow steps — 

" What is it you're making up to Mr. Van Wyk for, 
now? " 

[ S09 ] 

t ' 


** Far from it, Mr. Massy. I am not good enough for 
Mr. Van Wyk. Neither are you, sir, in his opinion, I 
am afraid. Captain Whalley is, it seems. He's gone 
to ask him to dine up at the house this evening." 

Then he murmured to himself darkly — 
I hope he will like it." 



Mr. Van Wyk, the white man of Batu Bern, an ex- 
naval officer who, for reasons best known to himself, had 
thrown away the promise of a brilliant career to become 
the pioneer of tobacco-planting on that remote part of 
the coast, had learned to like Captain Whalley. The 
appearance of the new skipper had attracted his atten- 
tion. Nothing more unlike all the diverse types he had 
seen succeeding each other on the bridge of the Sofala 
could be imagined. 

At that time Batu Beru was not what it has become 
since: the center of a prosperous tobacco-growing dis- 
trict, a tropically suburban-looking little settlement of 
bungalows in one long street shaded with two rows of 
trees, embowered by the flowering and trim luxuriance 
of the gardens, with a three-mile-long carriage-road for 
the afternoon drives and a first-class Resident with a 
fat, cheery wife to lead the society of married estate- 
managers and unmarried young fellows in the service 
of the big companies. 

All this prosperity was not yet; and Mr. Van Wyk 
prospered alone on the left bank on his deep clearing 

[ 310 ] 


carved out of the forest, which came down above and 
below to the water's edge. His lonely bungalow faced 
across the river the houses of the Sultan: a restless and 
melancholy old ruler who had done with love and war, 
for whom life no longer held any savor (except of evil 
forebodings) and time never had any value. He was 
afraid of death, and hoped he would die before the white 
men were ready to take his country from him. Ho 
crossed the river frequently (with never less than ten 
boats crammed full of people), in the wistful hope of 
extracting some information on the subject from his 
own white man. There was a certain chaif on the 
veranda he always took: the dignitaries of the court 
squatted on the rugs and skins between the furniture: 
the inferior people remained below on the grass plot 
between the house and the river in rows three or four 
deep all along the front. Not seldom the visit began at 
daybreak. Mr. Van Wyk tolerated these inroads. He 
would nod out of his bedroom window, tooth-brush or 
razor in hand, or pass through the throng of courtiers in 
his bathing robe. He appeared and disappeared hum- 
ming a tune, polished his nails with attention, rubbed 
his shaved face with eau-de-Cologne, drank his early 
tea, went out to see his coolies at work : returned, looked 
through some papers on his desk, read a page or two 
in a book or sat before his cottage piano leaning back 
on the stool, his arms extended, fingers on the keys, his 
body swaying slightly from side to side. When abso- 
lutely forced to speak he gave evasive vaguely soothing 
answers out of pure compassion: tho same feeling per* 

[811 ] 


haps made him so lavkhly hospitable with the aerated 
drinks that more than onoe he left himself without soda- 
water for a whole week. That old man had granted him 
as much land as he cared to have cleared: it was neither 
more nor less than a fortune. 

Whether it was fortune or seclusion from his kind that 
Mr. Van Wyk sought, he could not have pitched upon 
a better place. Even the mail-boats of the subsidized 
company calling on the veriest clusters of palm-thatched 
hovels along the coast steamed past the mouth of Batu 
Bern river far away in the offing. The contract was 
old: perhaps in a few years' time, when it had expired, 
Batu Bern would be included in the service; meantime 
all Mr. Van Wyk's mail was addressed to Malacca, 
whence his agent sent it across once a month by the 
Sofala, It followed that whenever Massy had run short 
•f money (through taking too many lottery tickets), 
or got into a difficulty about a skipper, Mr. Van Wyk 
was deprived of his letters and newspapers. In so far 
he had a personal interest in the fortunes of the Sofcia. 
Though he considered himself a hermit (and for no 
passing whim evidently, since he had stood eight jears 
of it already), he liked to know what went on in the 

Handy on the veranda upon a walnut Stager e (it had 
come last year by the Sofcia — everything came by the 
Sofdla) there lay, piled up under bronze weights, a pile 
of the TimeM* weekly edition, the large sheets of the 
Rotterdam Courant, the Graphic in its world-widk 
gFten wrappers, an illustrated Dutch publication wi^H 


out a cover, the numbers of a German magazine with 
covers of the " Bismarck malade " color. There were 
also parcels of new music — ^though the piano (it had 
come years ago by the Sofala) in the damp atmosphere 
of the forests was generally out of tune. It was vexing 
to be cut off from everything for sixty days at a stretch 
sometimes, without any means of knowing what was tlw 
matter. And when the Sofala reappeared Mr. Van Wyk 
would descend the steps of the veranda and stroll over 
the grass plot in front of his house, down to the water- 
side, with a frown on his white brow. 

" You've been laid up after an accident, I presume." 

He addressed the bridge, but before anybody could 
answer Massy was sure to have already scrambled ashore 
over the rail and pushed in, squeezing the palms of his 
hands together, bowing his sleek head as if gummed all 
over the top with black threads and tapes. And he 
would be so enraged at the necessity of having to offer 
such an explanation that his moaning would be posi* 
tively pitiful, while all the time he tried to compose 
his big lips into a smile. 

" No, Mr. Van Wyk. You would not believe it. I 
couldn't get one of those wretches to take the ship out. 
Not a single one of the lazy beasts could be induced, 
and the law, you know, Mr. Van Wyk . . ." 

He moaned at great length apologetically; the words 
conspiracy, plot, envy, came out prominently, whined 
with greater energy. Mr. Van Wyk, examining with 
a faint grimace his polished finger-nails, would say, 
** H'm. Very unfortunate," and turn his back on him. 

[ 818 } 


Fastidious, clever, slightly skeptical, accustomed to the 
best society (he had held a much-envied shore appoint- 
ment at the Ministry of Marine for a year preceding 
his retreat from his profession and from Europe), he 
possessed a latent warmth of feeling and a capacity for 
Bjrmpathy whidi were concealed by a sort of haughty, 
arbitrary indifference of manner arising from his early 
training; and by a something an enemy might have 
called foppish, in his aspect — ^like a distorted echo of 
past elegancies. He managed to keep an almost mili- 
tary discipline amongst the coolies of the estate he had 
dragged into the light of day out of the tangle and 
shadows of the jungle; and the white shirt he put 
on every evening with its stiff glossy front and high 
collar looked as if he had meant to preserve the decent 
ceremony of evening-dress, but had wound a thick crim- 
son sash above his hips' as a concession to the wilderness, 
once his adversary, now his vanquished companion. 
Moreover, it was a hygienic precaution. Worn wide 
open in front, a short jacket of some airy silken stuff 
floated from his shoulders. His fluffy, fair hair, thin 
at the top, curled slightly at the sides; a carefully ar- 
ranged mustache, an ungarnished forehead, the gleam 
of low patent shoes peeping under the wide bottom of 
trowsers cut straight from the same stuff as the gossa- 
mer coat, completed a figure recalling, with its sash, a 
pirate chief of romance, and at the same time the ele- 
gance of a slightly bald dandy indulging, in seclusion, 
a taste for unorthodox costume. 

It was his evening get-up. The proper time for the 

[ 814 ] 


Sofala to arrive at Batu Bern was an hour before sui^ 
set, and he looked picturesque, and somehow quite cor- 
rect too, walking at the water's edge on the background 
of grass slope crowned with a low long bungalow with 
an immensely steep roof of palm thatch, and clad to the 
eaves in flowering creepers. While the Sofala was being 
made fast he strolled in the shade of the few trees left 
near the landing-place, waiting till he could go on 
board. Her white men were not of his kind. The old 
Sultan (though his wistful invasions were a nuisance) 
was really much more acceptable to his fastidious taste. 
But still they were white; the periodical visits of the 
ship made a break in the well-filled sameness of the 
days without disturbing his privacy. Moreover, they 
were necessary from a business point, of view; and 
through a strain of preciseness in his nature he was 
irritated when she failed to appear at the appointed 
The cause of the irregularity was too absurd, and 
Massy, in his opinion, was a contemptible idiot. The 
first time the Sofala reappeared under the new agree- 
ment swinging out of the bend below, after he had 
almost given up all hope of ever seeing her again, he 
felt so angry that he did not go down at once to the 
landing-place. His servants had come running to him 
with the news, and he had dragged a chair close against 
the front rail of the veranda, spread his elbows out, 
rested his chin on his hands, and went on glaring at 
her fixedly while she was being made fast opposite his 
house. He could make out easily all the white faces on 

[316 ] 


board. Who on earth was that kind of patriarch they 
had got there on the bridge now? 

At last he sprang up and walked down the gravel path. 
It was a fact that the very gravel for his paths had 
been imported by the Sofala. Exasperated out of his 
quiet superciliousness, without looking at anyone right 
or left, he accosted Massy straightway in so determined 
a manner that the engineer, taken aback, began to 
stammer unintelligibly. Nothing could be heard but 
the words : " Mr. Van Wyk . . . Indeed, Mr. Van 
Wyk . . . For the future, Mr. Van Wyk " — ^andbythe 
suffusion of blood Massy's vast bilious face acquired an 
unnatural orange tint, out of which the disconcerted 
coal-black eyes shone in an extraordinary manner. 

" Nonsense. I am tired of this. I wonder you have 
the impudence to come alongside my jetty as if I had 
it made for your convenience alone." 

Massy tried to protest earnestly. Mr. Van Wyk was 
very angry. He had a good mind to ask that German 
firm — ^those people in Malacca — what was their name? — 
boats with green funnels. They would be only too glad 
of the opening to put one of their small steamers on 
the run. Yes ; Schnitzler, Jacob Schnitzler, would in a 
moment. Yes. He had decided to write without delay. 

In his agitation Massy caught up his falling pipe. 

" You don't mean it, sir ! " he shrieked. 

" You shouldn't mismanage your business in this 
ridiculous manner." 

Mr. Van Wyk turned on his heel. The other three 
whites on the bridge had not stirred during the scene. 

[ 816 ] 


Massy walked hastily from side to side, puffed out his 
cheeks, suffocated. 

" Stuck up Dutchman ! " 

And he moaned out feverishly a long tale of griefs. 
The efforts he had made for all these years to please 
that man. This was the return you got for it, eh? 
Pretty. Write to Schnitzler — ^let in the green-funnel 
boats — get an old Hamburg Jew to ruin him. No, 
really he could laugh. . . . He laughed sobbingly. . . . 
Ha ! ha ! ha ! And make liim carry the letter in his own 
ship presumably. 

He stumbled across a grating and swore. He would 
not hesitate to fling the Dutchman's correspondence 
overboard — the whole confounded bundle. He had 
never, never made any charge for that accommodation. 
But Captain Wlialley, his new partner, would not let 
him probably; besides, it would be only putting off the 
evil day. For his own part he would make a hole in the 
water rather than look on tamely at the green funnels 
overrunning his trade. 

He raved aloud. The China boys hung back with the 
dishes at the foot of the, ladder. He yelled from the 
bridge down at the deck, " Aren't we going to have any 
chow this evening at all? " then turned violently to 
Captain Whalley, who waited, grave and patient, at 
the head of the table, smoothing his beard in silence 
now and then with a forbearing gesture. 

" You don't seem to care what happens to me. Don't 
you see that this affects your interests as much as mine? 
It's no joking matter." 

( 317 ] 


He took the foot of the table growling between his 

** Unless you have a few thousands put away some- 
where. I haven't.'* 

Mr. Van Wyk dined in his thoroughly lit-up bunga- 
low, putting a point of splendor in the night of his 
clearing above the dark bank of the river. Afterwards 
he sat down to his piano, and in a pause he became aware 
of slow footsteps passing on the path along the front. 
A plank or two creaked under a heavy tread ; he swung 
half round on the music-stool, listening with his finger- 
tips at rest on the keyboard. His little terrier barked 
violently, backing in from the veranda. A deep voice 
apologized gravely for " this intrusion." He walked out 

At the head of the steps the patriarchal figure, who 
was the new captain of the Sofala apparently (he had 
seen a round dozen of them, but not one of that sort), 
towered without advancing. The little dog barked im- 
ceasingly, till a flick of Mr. Van Wyk's handkerchief 
made him spring aside into silence. Captain Whalley, 
opening the matter, was met by a punctiliously polite 
but determined opposition. 

They carried on their discussion standing where they 
had come face to face. Mr. Van Wyk observed his 
visitor with attention. Then at last, as if forced out of 
his reserve — 

** I am surprised that you should intercede for such a 
confounded fool." 

This outbreak was almost complimentary, as if its 

[ 818 ] 


jneaning had been^ ^^ That such a man as jou should 
intercede ! " Captain Whalley let it pass by without 
flinching. One would have thought he had heard noth- 
ing. He simply went on to state that he was personally 
interested in putting things straight between them. 
Personally • . . 

But Mr. Van Wyk, really carried away by his disgust 
with Massy, became very incisive — 

" Indeed — ^if I am to be frank with you — ^his whole 
character does not seem to me particularly estimable or 
trustworthy . . ." 

Captain Whalley, always straight, seemed to grow an 
inch taller and broader, as if the girth of his chest had 
suddenly expanded under his beard. 

" My dear sir, you don't think I came here to discuss 
a man with whom I am — I am — ^h'm — closely asso- 

A sort of solemn silence lasted for a moment. He was 
not used to asking favors, but the importance he at- 
tached to this ajffair had made him willing to try. . . • 
Mr. Van Wyk, favorably impressed, and suddenly mol- 
lified by a desire to laiigh, interrupted — 

" That's all right if you make it a personal matter ; 
but you can do no less than sit down and smoke a cigar 
with me." 

A slight pause, then Captain Whalley stepped forward 
heavily. As to the regularity of the service, for the 
future he made himself responsible for it; and his name 
was Whalley — ^perhaps to a sailor (he was speaking to 
• sailor, was he not?) not altogether unfamiliar. Ther^ 

[ 819 ] 


was a lighthouse now, on an island. Maybe Mr. Van 
Wyk himself • • . 

" Oh yes. Oh indeed.'* Mr. Van Wyk caught on at 
once. He indicated a chair. How very interesting. 
For his own part he had seen some service in the last 
Acheen War^ but had never been so far East. Whalley 
Island? Of course. Now that waus very interesting. 
What changes his guest must have seen since. 

" I can look further back even — on a whole half- 

Captain Whalley expanded a bit. The flavor of a 
good cigar (it was a weakness) had gone straight to his 
heart, also the civility of that young man. There was 
something in that accidental contact of which he had 
been starved in his years of struggle. 

The front wall retreating made a square recess fur- 
nished like a room. A lamp with a milky glass shade, 
suspended below the slope of the high roof at the end 
of a slender brass chain, threw a bright round of light 
upon a little table bearing an open book and an ivory 
paper-knife. And, in the translucent shadows beyond, 
other tables could be seen, a number of easy-chairs of 
various shapes, with a great profusion of skin rugs 
strewn on the teakwood planking all over the veranda. 
The flowering creepers scented the air. Their foliage 
clipped out between the uprights made as if several 
frames of thick imstirring leaves reflecting the lamp- 
light in a green glow. Through the opening at his 
elbow Captain Whalley could see the gangway lantern 
of the Sofala burning dim by the shore, tjtie shadowy 

j; no ] 


masses of the town beyond the open lustrous darkness 
of the river, and, as if hung along the straight edge 
of the projecting eaves, a narrow black strip of the 
night sky full of stars — ^resplendent. The famous cigar 
in hand he had a moment of complacency. 

" A trifle. Somebody must lead the way. I just 
showed that the thing could be done; but you men 
brought up to the use of steam cannot conceive the 
vast importance of my bit of vejituresomeness to 
the Eastern trade of the time. Why, that new route 
reduced the average time of a southern passage by 
eleven days for more than half the year. Eleven days ! 
It's on record. But the remarkable thing — speaking 
to a sailor — I should say was . . ." 

He talked well, without egotism, professionally. The 
powerful voice, produced without efi^ort, filled the 
bungalow even into the empty rooms with a deep and 
limpid resonance^t seemed to make a stillness outside; 
and Mr. Van Wyk was surprised by the serene quality 
of its tone, like the perfection of manly gentleness- 
Nursing one small foot, in a silk sock and a patent 
leather shoe, on his knee, he was immensely entertained. 
It was as if nbbody could talk like this now, and the 
overshadowed eyes, the flowing white beard, the big 
frame, the serenity, the whole temper of the man, were 
an amazing survival from the prehistoric times of the 
world coming up to him out of the sea. 

Captain Whalley had been also the pioneer of the early 
trade in the Gtilf of Pe-tchi-li. He even found occasion 
to mention that he had buried his " dear wife " tfaeri? 


to see him — ^to hear that maik speak. He might hare 
been a ferocious savage once. What men wanted was 
to be checked by superior intelligence, by superior 
knowledge, by superior force too — ^yes, by force held in 
trust from God and sanctified by its use in accordance 
with His declared will. Captain Whalley believed a dis- 
position for good existed in every man, even if the 
world were not a very happy place as a whole. In the 
wisdom of men he had not so much confidence. The dis- 
position had to be helped up pretty sharply sometimes, 
he admitted. They might be silly, wrongheaded, un- 
happy; but naturally evil — no. There was at bottom 
a complete harmlessness at least . . . 

"Is there? " Mr. Van Wyk snapped acrimoniously. 

Captain Whalley laughed at the interjection, in the 
good humor of large, tolerating certitude. He could 
look back at half a century, he pointed out. The smoke 
oozed placidly through the white hairs hiding his kindly 

" At all events," he resumed after a pause, " I ais 
glad that they've had no time to do you much harm as 

This allusion to his comparative youthfulness did not 
offend Mr. Van Wyk, who got up and wriggled his 
shoulders with an enigmatic half -smile. They walked 
out together amicably into the starry night towards 
the river-side. Their footsteps resounded unequally on 
the dark path. At the shore end of the gangway the 
lantern, hung low to the handrail, threw a vivid light 
on the white legs and the big black feet of Mr. Massy 

[ 324 ] 


waiting about anxiously. From the waist upwards he 
remained shadowy, with a row of buttons gleaming up 
to the vague outline of his chin. 

" You may thank Captain Whalley for this," Mr. Van 
Wyk said curtly to him before turning away. 

The lamps on the veranda flung three long squares 
of light between the uprights far over the grass. A bat 
flitted before his face like a circling flake of velvety 
blackness. Along the jasmine hedge the night air 
seemed heavy with the fall of perfumed dew; flower- 
beds bordered the path; the clipped bushes uprose in 
dark rounded clumps here and there before the house; 
the dense foliage of creepers filtered the sheen of the 
lamplight within in a soft glow all along the front; 
and everything near and far stood still in a great im- 
mobility, in a great sweetness. 

Mr. Van Wyk (a few years before he had had occasion 
to imagine himself treated more badly than an^rbody 
alive had ever been by a woman) felt for Captain 
Whalley's optimistic views the disdain of a man who 
had once been credulous himself. His disgust with the 
world (the woman for a time had filled it for him com- 
pletely) had taken the form of activity in retirement, 
because, though capable of great depth of feeling, he 
was energetic and essentially practical. But there was 
in that uncommon old sailor, drifting on the outskirts 
of his busy solitude, something that fascinated his 
skepticism. His very simplicity (amusing enough) was 
like a delicate refinement of an upright character. The 
striking dignity of manner could b^ nothing else, in a 

[ 886 ] 


man reduced to such a humble position, but the ex- 
pression of something essentially noble in the character. 
With all his trust in mankind he wfius no fool ; the seren- 
ity of his temper at the end of so many years, since it 
could not obviously have been appeased by success, wore 
an air of profound wisdom. Mr. Van Wyk was amused 
at it sometimes. Even the very physical traits of the 
old captain of the SofcHa^ his powerful frame, his re- 
poseful mien, his intelligent, handsome face, the big 
limbs, the benign courtesy, the touch of rugged severity 
in the shaggy eyebrows, made up a seductive person- 
ality. Mr. Van Wyk disliked littleness of every kind, 
but there was nothing small about that man, and in 
the exemplary regularity of many trips an intimacy had 
grown up between them, a warm feeling at bottom under 
a kindly stateliness of forms agreeable to his fastidious- 

They kept their respective opinions on all worldly 
matters. His other convictions Captain Whalley never 
intruded. The difference of their ages was like another 
bond between them. Once, when twitted with the un- 
charitableness of his youth, Mr. Van Wyk, running his 
eye over the vast proportions of his interlocutor, re- 
torted in friendly banter — 

" Oh. You'll come to my way of thinking yet. You'll 
have plenty of time. Don't call yourself old: you lookj 
good for a round hundred." 

But he could not help his stinging incisiveness, and 
though moderating it by an almost affectionate smile 
he added — 

[ 386 ] 


" And by then you will probably consent to die from 
sheer disgust.'' 

Captain Whalley, smiling too, shook his head. *^ God 
forbid ! " 

He thought that perhaps on the whole he deserved 
something better than to die in such sentiments. The 
time of course would have to come^ and he trusted to 
his Maker to provide a manner of going out of which 
he need not be ashamed. For the rest he hoped he 
would live to a hundred if need be : other men had been 
known ; it would be no miracle. He expected no miracles. 

The pronounced, argumentative tone caused Mr. Van 
Wyk to raise his head and look at him steadily. Cap- 
tain Whalley was gazing ifixedly with a rapt expression, 
as though he had seen his Creator's favorable decree 
written in mysterious characters on the wall. He kept 
perfectly motionless for a few seconds, then got his vast 
bulk on to his feet so impetuously that Mr. Van Wyk 
was startled. 

He struck first a heavy blow on his inflated chest : and, 
throwing out horizontally a big arm that remained 
steady, extended in the air like the limb of a tree on 
a windless day — 

^ Not a pain or an ache there. Can you see this shake 
in the least? " 

His voice was low, in an awing, confident contrast with 
the headlong emphasis of his movements. He sat down 

** This isn't to boast of it, you know. I am nothing," 
he said in his efi^ortless strong voice, that seemed to 

[ 827 ] 


come out as naturally as a river flows. He picked up the 
stump of the cigar he had laid aside, and added peace- 
fully, with a slight nod, '*As it happens, my life is 
necessary ; it isn't my own, it isn't — God knows." 

He did not say much for the rest of the evening, but 
several times Mr. Van Wyk detected a faint smile of 
assurance flitting imder the heavy mustache. 

Later on Captain Whalley would now and then consent 
to dine ^^ at the house." He could even be induced to 
drink a ^ass of wine. '^ Don't think I am afraid of it, 
Day good sir," he explained. " There was a very good 
reason why I should give it up." 

On another occasion, leaning back at ease, he remarked, 
** You have treated me most — ^most humanely, my dear 
Mr. Van Wyk, from the very first." 

** You'll admit there was some merit," Mr. Van Wyk 
hinted slyly. " An associate of that excellent Massy. 
. . . Well, well, my dear captain, I won't say a word 
against him." 

^^ It would be no use your saying anything against 
him," Captain Whalley affirmed a little moodily. " As 
I've told you before, my life — ^my work, is necessary, not 
for myself alone. I can't choose " . . . He paused, 
turned the glass before him right round. • • • '^ I have 
an only child — a daughter." 

The ample downward sweep of his arm over the table 
seemed to suggest a small girl at a vast distance. *' I 
hope to see her once more before I die. Meantime it's 
enough to know that she has me sound and solid, thank 
God. You can't understand how one feels. Bone of my 

1 «8 3 


bone, flesh of my flesh ; ths very image of my poor wife. 
WeU, she . . /' 

Again he paused, then pronounced stoically the words, 
** She has a hard struggle." 

And his head fell on his breast, his eyebrows remained 
knitted, as by an efi^ort of meditation. But generally his 
mind seemed steeped in the serenity of boundless trust 
in a higher power. Mr. Van Wyk wondered sometimes 
how much of it was due to the splendid vitality of the 
man, to the bodily vigor which seems to impart some- 
thing of its force to the soul. But he had learned to 
like him very much. 

This was the reason why Mr. Sterne's confidential com- 
munication, delivered hurriedly on the shore alongside 
the dark silent ship, had disturbed his equanimity. It 
was the most incomprehensible and unexpected thing 
that could happen; and the perturbation of his spirit 
was so great that, forgetting all about his letters, he ran 
rapidly up the bridge ladder. 

The portable table was being put together for dinner 
to the left of the wheel by two pig-tailed " boys," who 
as usual snarled at each other over the job, while another, 
a dolefid, burly, very yellow Chinaman, resembling Mr. 
Massy, waited apathetically with the cloth over his arm 
and a pile of thick dinner-plates against his chest. A 
conomon cabin lamp with its globe missing, brought up 
from below^ had been hooked to the wooden framework 

[ 889 ] 


of the awning; the side-screens had been lowered all 
round ; Captain Whalley filling the depths of the wicker- 
chair seemed to sit benumbed in a canvas tent crudely 
lighted, and used for the storing of nautical objects; a 
shabby steering-wheel, a battered brass binnacle on a 
stout mahogany stand, two dingy life-buoys, an old cork 
fender lying in a comer, dilapidated deck-lockers with 
loops of thin rope instead of door-handles. 

He shook off the appearance of numbness to return 
Mr. Van Wyk's unusually brisk greeting, but relapsed 
directly afterwards. To accept a pressing invitation to 
dinner " up at the house " cost him another very visible 
physical effort. Mr. Van Wyk, perplexed, folded his 
arms, and leaning back against the rail, with his little, 
black, shiny feet well out, examined him covertly. 

** I've noticed of late that you are not quite yourself, 
old friend." 

He put an affectionate gentleness into the last two 
words. The real intimacy of their intercourse had never 
been so vividly expressed before. 

" Tut, tut, tut ! " 

The wicker-chair creaked heavily. 

** Irritable," commented Mr. Van Wyk to himself ; and 
aloud, " I'll expect to see you in half an hour, then," he 
said negligently, moving off. 

** In half an hour," Captain Whalley's rigid silvery 
head repeated behind him as if out of a trance. 

Amidships, below, two voices, close against the engine- 
room, could be heard answering each other — one angry 
and slow, the other alert. 

[ 880 ] 


" I tell you the beast has locked himself in to get 

" Can't help it now, Mr. Massy. After all, a man has 
a right to shut himself up in his cabin in his own time." 

" Not to get drunk." 

" I heard him swear that the worry with the boilers 
was enough to drive any man to drink," Sterne said 

Massy hissed out something about bursting the door 
in. Mr. Van Wyk, to avoid them, crossed in the dark 
to the other side of the deserted deck. The planking 
of the little wharf rattled faintly under his hasty feet. 

" Mr. Van Wyk ! Mr. Van Wyk ! " 

He walked on: somebody was running on the path. 
"You've forgotten to get your mail." 

Sterne, holding a bundle of papers in his hand, caught 
up with him. 

" Oh, thanks." 

But, as the other continued at his elbow, Mr. Van 
Wyk stopped short. The overhanging eaves, descend- 
ing low upon the lighted front of the bungalow, threw 
their black straight-edged shadow into the great body 
of the night on that side. Everything was very still. 
A tinkle of cutlery and a slight jingle of glasses were 
heard. Mr. Van Wyk's servants were laying the table 
for two on the veranda. 

"I'm afraid you give me no credit whatever for my 
good intentions in the matter I've spoken to you about," 
said Sterne. 

" I simply don't understand you." 

[ 831 ] 


" Captain Whalley is a very audacious man, but he 
will understand that his game is up. That's all that 
anybody need ever know of it from me. Believe me, I 
am very considerate in this, but duty is duty. I don't 
want to make a fuss. AU I ask you, as his friend, is 
to tell him from me that the game's up. That will be 

Mr. Van Wyk felt a loathsome dismay at this queer 
privilege of friendship. He would not demean himself 
by asking for the slightest explanation; to drive the 
other away with contumely he did not think prudent — 
as yet, at any rate. So much assurance staggered him. 
Who could tell what there could be in it, he thought? 
His regard for Captain Whalley had the tenacity of 
a disinterested sentiment, and his practical instinct com^ 
ing to his aid, he concealed his scorn. 

" I gather, then, that this is something grave." 

" Very grave," Sterne assented solemnly, delighted at 
having produced an effect at last. He was ready to add 
some effusive protestations of regret at the " unavoida- 
ble necessity," but Mr. Van Wyk cut him short — very 
civilly, however. 

Once on the veranda Mr. Van Wyk put his hands in his 
pockets, and, straddling his legs, stared down at a 
black panther skin lying on the floor Ijefore a rocking- 
chair. " It looks as if the fellow had not the pluck 
to play his own precious game openly," he thought. 

This was true enough. In the face of Massy's last 
rebuff Sterne dared not declare his knowledge. His 
object was simply to get charge of the steamer and 

[ 832 ] 


ke^p it for some time. Massy would never forgive hun 
for forcing himself on; but if Captain VHialley left 
the ship of his own accord, the command would devolve 
upon him for the rest of the trip; so he hit upon the 
brilliant idea of scaring the old man away. A vague 
menace, a mere hint^ would be enough in such a brazen 
case; and, with a strange admixture of compassion, he 
thought that Batu Beru waus a very good place for 
throwing up the sponge. The skipper could go ashore 
quietly, and stay with that Dutchman of his. Weren't 
these two as thick as thieves together? And on reflec* 
tion he seemed to see that there was a way to work the 
whole thing through that great friend of the old man's. 
This was another brilliant idea. He had an inborn 
preference for circuitous methods. In this particular 
case he desired to remain in the background as much 
as possible, to avoid exasperating Massy needlessly. 
No fuss ! Let it all happen naturally. 

Mr. Van Wyk all through the dinner was conscious 
of a sense of isolation that invades sometimes the close- 
ness of human intercourse. Captain Whalley failed 
lamentably and obviously in his attempts to eat some- 
thing. He seemed overcome by a strange absent- 
mindedness. His hand would hover irresolutely, as if 
left without guidance by a preoccupied mind. Mr. Van 
Wyk had heard him coming up from a long way off in 
the profound stillness of the river-side, and had noticed 
the irresolute character of the footfalls. The toe of his 
boot had struck the bottom stair as though he had come 
along mooning with his head in the air right up to the 

[ 388 ] 


steps of the veranda. Had the captain of the Sofcia 
been another sort of man he would have suspected the 
work of age there. But one glance at him was enough. 
Time — ^after, indeed, marking him for its own — ^had 
given him up to his usefulness, in which his simple 
faith would see a proof of Divine mercy. '' How could 
I contrive to warn him? " Mr. Van Wyk wondered, as 
if Captain Whalley had been miles and miles away, out 
of sight and earshot of all evil. He was sickened by 
an immense disgust of Sterne. To even mention his 
threat to a man like Whalley would be positively inde- 
cent. There was something more vile and insulting in 
its hint than in a definite charge of crime — ^the debasing 
taint of blackmailing. " What could anyone bring 
against him? " he asked himself. This was a limpid 
personality. "And for what object?" The Power 
that man trusted had thought fit to leave him nothing 
on earth that envy could lay hold of, except a bare crust 
of bread. 

"Won't you try some of this? " he asked, pushing a 
dish slightly. Suddenly it occurred to Mr. Van Wyk that 
Sterne might possibly be coveting the command of the 
Sofala. His cynicism was quite startled by what looked 
like a proof that no man may count himself safe from 
his kind unless in the very abyss of misery. An in- 
trigue of that sort was hardly worth troubling about, 
he judged; but still, with such a fool as Massy to deal 
with, Whalley ought to and must be warned. 

At this moment Captain Whalley, bolt upright, the 
deep cavities of the eyes overhung by a bushy frown, 

[ 834 ] 


ind one large brown hand resting on each side of his 
mipty plate, spoke across the tablecloth abruptly — 

" Mr. Van Wyk, you've always treated me with the 
i^ost humane consideration." 

*' My dear captain^ you make too much of the simple 
fact that I am not a savage." Mr. Van Wyk, utterly 
revolted by the thought of Sterne's obscure attempt, 
raised his voice incisively, as if the mate had been hiding 
somewhere within earshot. ** Any consideration I have 
been able to show was no more than the rightful due 
of a character I've learned to regard by this time with 
an esteem that nothing can shake." 

A slight ring of glass made him lift his eyes from the 
slice of pine-apple he was cutting into small pieces on 
his plate. In changing his position Captain Whalley 
had contrived to upset an empty tumbler. 

Without looking that way, leaning sideways on his 
elbow, his other hand shading his brow, he groped 
shakily for it, then desisted. Van Wyk stared blankly, 
as if something momentous had happened all at once. 
He did not know why he should feel so startled ; but he 
forgot Sterne utterly for the moment. 

"Why, what's the matter?" 

And Captain Whalley, half -averted, in a deadened, 
agitated voice, muttered — 

" Esteem ! " 

"And I may add something more," Mr. Van Wyk, 
very steady-eyed, pronounced slowly. 

" Hold ! Enough ! " Captain VHialley did not 
diange his attitude or raise his voice. " Say no more \ 

[ 885 ] 


I can make you no return. I am too poor «v«n for that 
now. Your esteem it worth having. You are not a 
man that would stoop to deceive the poorest sort of devil 
on earth, or make a ship unseaworthy every time he 
takes her to sea." 

Mr. Van Wyk, leaning forward, his face gone pink 
all over, with the starched table-napkin over his knees, 
was inclined to mistrust his senses, his power of com- 
prehension, the sanity of his guest. 

" Where? Why? In the name of God! — ^what's this? 
What ship? I don't understand who . . •** 

^* Then, in the name of God, it is I ! A ship's unsea- 
worthy when her captain can't see. I am going blind." 

Mr. Van Wyk made a slight movement, and sat very 
still afterwards for a few seconds; then, with the 
thought of Sterne's " The game's up," he ducked under 
the table to pick up the napkin which had slipped off 
his knees. This was the game that was up. And at 
the same time the muffled voice of Captain Whalley 
passed over him — 

" I've deceived them all. Nobody knows." 

He emerged flushed to the eyes. Captain Whalley, 
motionless under the full blaze of the lamp, shaded his 
face with his hand. 

" And you had that courage? " 

" Call it by what name you like. But you are a hu- 
mane man — a — a — gentleman, Mr. Van Wyk. You may 
have asked me what I had done with my conscience.'* 

He seemed to muse, profoundly silent, very still in his 
mournful pose. 

[ 836 ] 


" t began to tamper with it in my pride. You begin 
to see a lot of things when you are going blind. I 
could not be frank witrh an old chum even. I was not 
frank with Massy — no, not altogether. I knew he took 
me for a wealthy sailor fool, and I let him. I wanted 
to keep up my importance — ^because there was poor Ivy 
away there — ^my daughter. What did I want to trade 
on his misery for? I did trade on it — for her. And 
now, what mercy could I expect from him? He would 
trade on mine if he knew it. He would hunt the old 
fraud out, and stick to the money for a year. Ivy's 
money. And I haven't kept a penny for myself. How 
am I going to live for a year. A year ! In a year there 
will be no sun in the sky for her father." 

His deep voice came out^ awfully veiled, as though 
he had been overwhelmed by the earth of a landslide, 
and talking of the thoughts that haunt the dead in 
their graves. A cold shudder ran down Mr. Van Wyk's 

"And how long is it since you have . . .?" he 

" It was a long time before I could bring myself to 
believe in this — ^this — ^visitation." Captain Whalley 
spoke with gloomy patience from under his hand. 

He had not thought he had deserved it. He had begun 
by deceiving himself from day to day, from week to 
week. He had the Serang at hand there — ^an old 
servant. It came on gradually, and when he could no 
longer deceive himself . . . 

His voice died out almost. 

[ 387 ] 

^ Rather than give her up I set myself to deceive 

you bh:* 

" It's incredible," whispered Mr. Van Wyk. Captain 
Whalley's appalling murmur flowed on. 

** Not even the sign of God's anger could make me 
forget her. How could I forsake my child, feeling my 
vigor all the time — ^the blood warm within me? Warm 
as yours. It seems to me that, like the blinded Samson, 
I would find the strength to shake down a temple upon 
my head. She's a struggling woman — ^my own child 
that we used to pray over together, my poor wife and I. 
Do you remember that day I as well as told you 
that I believed God would let me live to a hundred for 
her sake? What sin is there in loving your child? Do 
you see it? I was ready for her sake to live for ever. 
I half believed I would. I've been praying for death 
since. Ha! Presumptuous man — ^you wanted to 
live . . ." 

A tremendous, shuddering upheaval of that big frame, 
shaken by a gasping sob, set the glasses jingling all 
over the table, seemed to make the whole house tremble 
to the roof-tree. And Mr. Van Wyk, whose feeling of 
outraged love had been translated into a form of strug- 
gle with nature, understood very well that, for that man 
whose whole life had been conditioned by action, there 
could exist no other expression for all the emotions ; that, 
to voluntarily cease venturing, doing, enduring, for his 
child's sake, would have been exactly like plucking his 
warm love for her out of his living heart. Something 
too monstrous, too impossible, even to conceive. 

[ 388 ] 


Captain Whalley had not changed his attitude, that 
seemed to express something of shame, sorrow, and 

** I have even deceived you. If it had not been for 
that word * esteem.' These are not the words for me. 
I would have lied to you. Haven't I lied to you? 
Weren't you going to trust your property on board this 
very trip.?" 

" I have a floating yearly policy," Mr. Van Wyk said 
almost unwittingly, and was amazed at the sudden crop- 
ping up of a commercial detail. 

" The ship is unseaworthy, I tell you. The policy 
would, be invalid if it were known ..." 

" We shall share the guilt, then." 

" Nothing could make mine less," said Captain 

He had not dared to consult a doctor ;<.Qke man would 
have, perhaps asked who he was, what he was doing; 
Massy might have heard something. He had lived on 
without any help, human or divine. The very prayers 
stuck in his throat. What was there to pray for? and 
death seemed as far as ever. Once he got into his cabin 
he dared not come out again ; when he sat down he dared 
not get up; he dared not raise his eyes to anybody's 
face; he felt reluctant to look upon the sea or up to 
the sky. The world was fading before his great fear 
of giving himself away. The old ship was his last 
friend; he was not afraid of her; he knew every inch 
of her deck ; but at her too he hardly d»fed to look, for 
fear of finding he could see less than the day before. 

[ 339 ] 


A great incertitude enveloped him. The horizon was 
gone; the sky mingled darkly with the sea. Who was 
this figure standing over yonder? what was this thing 
lying down there? And a frightful doubt of the reality 
of what he could see made even the remnant of sight 
that remained to him an added torment, a pitfall always 
open for his miserable pretense. He was afraid to 
stumble inexcusably over something — ^to say a fatal Yes 
or No to a question. The hand of Grod was upon him, 
but it could not tear him away from his child. And, 
as if in a nightmare of humiliation, every featureless 
man seemed an enemy. 

He let his hand fall heavily on the table. Mr. Van 
Wyk, arms down, chin on breast, with a gleam of white 
teeth pressing on the lower lip, meditated on Sterne's 
" The game's up." 

" The Serang of course does not know." 

" Nobody," said Captain Whalley, with assurance. 

" Ah yes. Nobody. Very well. Can you keep it up 
to the end of the trip? That is the last under the agree- 
ment with Massy." 

Captain Whalley got up and stood erect, very stately, 
with the great white beard lying like a silver breastplate 
over the awful secret of his heart. Yes; that was the 
only hope there was for him of ever seeing her again, 
of securing the money, the last he could do for her, 
before he crept away somewhere — ^useless, a burden, a 
reproach to himself. His voice faltered. 

"Think of It! Never see her any more: the only 
himian being besides myself now on earth that can re* 

[ 840 ] 


member my wife. She's just like her mother. Lucky 
the poor woman is where there are no tears shed over 
those they loved on earth and that remain to pray not 
to be led into temptation — ^because, I suppose, the 
blessed know the secret of grace in God's dealings with 
His created children." 

He swayed a little, said with austere dignity — 
" I don't. I know only the child He has given me." 
And he began to walk. Mr. Van Wyk, jumping up, 
saw the full meaning of the rigid head, the hesitating 
feet, the vaguely extended hand. His heart was beat- 
ing fast; he moved a chair aside, and instinctively ad- 
vanced as if to offer his arm. But Captain Whalley 
passed him by, making for the stairs quite straight. 
" He could not see me at all out of his line," Van Wyk 
thought, with a sort of awe. Then going to the head 
of the stairs, he asked a little tremulously — 
" What is it like — ^like a mist — ^like . . ." 
Captain VPTialley, half-way down, stopped, and turned 
round undismayed to answer. 

" It is as if the light were ebbing out of the world. 
Have you ever watched the ebbing sea on an open 
stretch of sands withdrawing farther and farther away 
from you? It is like this — only there will be no flood 
to follow. Never. It is as if the sun were growing 
smaller, the stars going out one by one. There can't be 
many left that I can see by this. But I haven't had the 
courage to look of late . . ." He must have been able 
to make out Mr. Van Wyk, because he checked him by 
an authoritative gesture and a stoical— 

[ 341 ] 


"I can get about alone yet/' 

It waa as if he had taken his line, and would accept 
no hel^ from men, after having been cast out, like a 
presumptuous Titan, from his heaven. Mr. Van Wyk, 
airested, seemed to count the footsteps right out of 
earshot. He walked between the tables, tapping 
smartly with his heeb, took up a paper-knife, dropped 
it after a vague ^ance along the blade; then hap- 
pening upon the piano, struck a few chords standing 
up before the k^board with an attentive poise of 
the head like a piano-tuner; closing it, he pivoted 
on his heels brusquely, avoided the little terrier 
sleeping trustfully on crossed forepaws, came upon the 
stairs next, and, as though he had lost his balance on 
the top step, ran down headlong out of the house. His 
servants, beginning to clear the table, heard him mutter 
to himself (evil words no doubt) down there, and then 
after a pause go away with a strolling gait in the direc- 
tion of the wharf. 

The bulwarks of the SofcHa lying alongside the bank 
made a low, black wall on the undulating contour of the 
shore. Two masts and a funnel uprose from behind it 
with a great rake, as if about to fall: a solid, square 
elevation in the middle bore the ghostly shapes of white 
boats^ the curves of davits, lines of rail and stanchions, 
all confused and mingling darkly everywhere; but low 
down, amidships, a single lighted port stared out on 
the night, perfectly round, like a small, full moon, 
whose yellow beam caught a patch of wet mud, the 
edge of trodden grass, two turns of heavy cable 

[ 342 ] 


wound round the foot of a thick wooden post in the 

Mr. Van Wyk, peering alongside, heard a muzzy 
boastful voice apparently jeering at a person called 
Prendergast. It mouthed abuse thickly, choked; then 
pronounced very distinctly the word " Murphy," and 
chuckled. Glass tinkled tremulously. All these sounds 
came from the lighted port. Mr. Van Wyk hesitated, 
stooped; it was impossible to look through unless he 
went down into the mud. 

*' Sterne," he said, half aloud. 

The drunken voice within said gladly — 

" Sterne — of course. Look at him blink. Look at 
him! Sterne, Whalley, Massy. Massy, Whalley, 
Sterne. But Massy's the best. Ypu can't come over 
him. He would just love to see you starve." 

Mr. Van Wyk moved away, made out farther forward 
a shadowy head stuck out from under the awnings as 
if on the watch, and spoke quietly in Malay, " Is the 
mate asleep .^^ " 

" No. Here, at your service." 

In a moment Sterne appeared, walking as noiselessly 
as a cat on the wharf. 

** It's so jolly dark, and I had no idea you would be 
down to-night." 

" VSThat's this horrible raving? " asked Mr. Van Wyk, 
as if to explain the cause of a shudder that ran over 
him audibly. 

" Jack's broken out on a drunk. That's our second. 
It's hk way. He will be right enough by to-morrow 

[ 343 I 


afternoon, only Mr. Massy will keep on worryittg up 
and down the deck. We had better get away.** 

He muttered suggestively of a talk ** up at the house." 
He had long desired to effect an entrance there, but Mr. 
Van Wyk nonchalantly demurred: it would not, he 
feared, be quite prudent, perhaps; and the opaque 
black shadow under one of the two big trees left at the 
landing-place swallowed them up, impenetrably dense, 
by the side of the wide river, that seemed to spin into 
threads of glitter the light of a few big stars dropped 
here and there upon its outspread and flowing stillness. 

** The situation is grave beyond doubt," Mr. Van Wyk 
said. Ghost-like in their white clothes they could not 
distinguish each others' features, and their feet made 
no soimd on the soft earth. A sort of purring was 
heard. Mr. Sterne felt gratified by such a beginning. 

" I thought, Mr. Van Wyk, a gentleman of your sort 
would see at once how awkwardly I was situated." 

** Yes, very. Obviously his health is bad. Perhaps 
he's breaking up. I see, and he himself is well aware — 
I assume I am speaking to a man of sense — ^he is well 
aware that his legs are giving out." 

" His legs — ah ! " Mr. Sterne was disconcerted, and 
then turned sulky. "You may call it his legs if you 
like ; what I want to know is whether he intends to clear 
out quietly. That's a good one, too! His legs! 
Pooh ! " 

" Why, yes. Only look at the way he walks." Mr. 
Van Wyk took him up in a perfectly cool and undoubt- 
ing tone. '* The question, however, is whether your 

[ SM ] 


sense of duty does not carry you too far from your true 
interest. After all, I too could do something to serve 
you. You know who I am." 
" Everybody along the Straits has heard of you, sir.'* 
Mr. Van Wyk presumed that this meant something 
fa^'^orable. Sterne had a soft laugh at this pleasantry. 
He should think so! To the opening statement, that 
the partnership agreement was to expire at the end of 
this very trip, he gave an attentive assent. He was 
aware. One heard of nothing else on board all the 
blessed day long. As to Massy, it was no secret that he 
was in a jolly deep hole with these worn-out boilers. 
He would have to borrow somewhere a couple of hun- 
dred first of all to pay off the captain; and then he 
would have to raise money on mortgage upon the ship 
for the new boilers — ^that is, if he could find a lender at 
all. At best it meant loss of time, a break in the trade, 
short earnings for the year — ^and there was always the 
danger of having his connection filched away from him 
by the Germans. It was whispered about that he had 
already tried two firms. Neither would have anything 
to do with him. Ship too old, and the man too well 
known in the place. • . . Mr. Sterne's final rapid wink- 
ing remained buried in the deep darkness sibilating with 
his whispers. 

" Supposing, then, he got the loan," Mr. Van Wyk 
resumed in a deliberate undertone, " on your own show- 
ing he's more than likely to get a mortgagee's man 
thrust upon him as captain. For my part, I know that 
I would make that very stipulation myself if I had to 

[ 846 3 


find the money. And as a matter of fact I am tJiinViB g 
of doing so. It would be worth my while in many ways. 
Do you see how this would bear on the case under dis- 

"Thank you, sir. I am sure you couldn't get any- 
body that would care more for your interests." 

•*Well, it suits my interest that Captain Whallej 
should finish his time. I shall probably take a passage 
with you down the Straits. If that can be done, I'll be 
on the spot when all these changes take place, and in a 
position to look after your interests." 

** Mr. Van Wyk, I want nothing better. I am sure 
I am infinitely ..." 

*^ I take it, then, that this may be done without any 

**Well, sir, what risk there is can't be helped; but 
(speaking to you as my employer now) the thing is 
more safe than it looks. If anybody had told me of it 
I wouldn't have believed it, but I have been looking en 
myself. That old Serang has been trained up to tiie 
game. There's nothing the matter with his — his — 
limbs, tir. He's got used to things on his own in a 
remarkable way. And let me tell you, sir, that Cap- 
tain Whalley, poor man, is by no means useless. Fact. 
Let me explain to you, sir. He stiffens up that old 
monkey of a Malay, who knows well enough what to do. 
Why, he must have kept captain's watches in all sorts of 
country ships off and on for the last five-and-twenty 
years. These natives, sir, as long as they have a white 
man close at the back, will go on i/oing the right thing 



most surprisingly well — even if left quite to themselves* 
Only the white man must be of the sort to put starch 
iato them, and the captain is just the one for that. 
Why, sir, he has drilled him se well that now he needs 
hardly speak at all. I have seen that little wrinkled 
ape made to take the ship out of Pangu Bay on a 
blowy morning and on all through the islands; take 
her out first-rate, sir, dodging under the old man's 
elbow, and in such quiet style that you could not have 
told for the life of you which of the two was doing the 
work up there. That's where our poor friend would be 
still of use to the ship even if — ^if — ^he could no longer 
lift a foot, sir. Provided the Serang does not know 
that there's anything wrong." 

« He doesn't." 

"Naturally not. Quite beyond his apprehension. 
They aren't capable of finding out anything about us, 

" You seem to be a shrewd man," said Mr. Van Wyk 
in a choked mutter, as though he were feeling sick. 

" You'll find me a good enough servant, sir." 

Mr. Sterne hoped now for a handshake at least, but 
unexpectedly, with a "What's this? Better not to be 
seen together," Mr. Van Wyk's white shape wavered, 
and instantly seemed to melt away in the black air under 
the roof of boughs. The mate was startled. Yes. 
There was that faint thumping clatter. 

He stole out silently from under the shade. The 
lighted port-hole shone from afar. His head swam with 
the intoxication of liudden success. What a thing it 

[ 347 ] 


was to have a gentleiiiaii to deal with ! He crept aboardi 
and there was something weird in the shadowy stretch 
of empty decks, echoing with shouts and blows proceed- 
ing from a darker part amidships. Mr. Massy was 
raging before the door of the berth: the drunken voice 
within flowed on undisturbed in the violent racket of 

** Shut tip ! Put your light out and turn in, you 
cionfounded swilling pig — ^you! D'you hear me, you 

The kicking stopped, and in the pause the muzzy 
oracular voice announced from within — 

**Ah! Massy, now — ^that's another thing. Massy's 

"Who's that aft there.? You, Sterne? He'll drink 
himself into a fit of horrors." The chief engineer ap- 
peared vague and big at the comer of the engine 
room skylight. 

" He will be good enough for duty to-morrow. I would 
let him be, Mr. Mcissy." 

Sterne slipped away into his berth, and at once had 
to sit down. His head swam with exultation. He got 
into his bunk as if in a dream. A feeling of profound 
peace, of pacific joy, came over him. On deck all was 

Mr. Massy, with his ear against the door of Jack's 
cabin, listened critically to a deep stertorous breathing 
within. This was a dead-drunk sleep. The bout was 
over: tranquilized on that score, he too went in, and 
with slow wriggles got out of his old tweed jacket. It 



was a garment with many pockets, which he used to put 
on at odd times of the day, being subject to sudden 
chilly fits, and when he felt warmed he would take it off 
and hang it about anywhere all over the ship. It would 
be seen swinging on belaying-pins, thrown over the 
heads of winches, suspended on people's very door- 
handles for that matter. Was he not the owner? But 
his favorite place was a hook on a wooden awning 
stanchion on the bridge, almost against the binnacle. 
He had even in the early days more than one tussle on 
that point with Captain Whalley, who desired the 
bridge to be kept tidy. He had been overawed then. 
Of late, though, he had been able to defy his partner 
with impunity. Captain Whalley never seemed to 
notice anything now. As to the Malays, in their awe 
of that scowling man not one of the crew would dream 
of laying a hand on the thing, no matter where or what 
it swung from. 

With an unexpectedness which made Mr. Massy jump 
and drop the coat at his feet, there came from the next 
berth the crash and thud of a headlong, jingling, clat* 
tering fall. The faithful Jack must have dropped to 
sleep suddenly as he sat at his revels, and now had 
gone over chair and all, breaking, as it seemed by the 
sound, every single glass and bottle in the place. After 
the terrific smash all was still for a time in there, as 
though he had killed himself on the spot. Mr. 
Massy held his breath. At last a sleepy uneasy groan- 
^g sigh was exhaled slowly on the other side of the 



" I hope to goodness he's too drunk to wake up now/ 
muttered Mr. Massy. 

The sound of a softly knowing laugh nearly droT€ 
him to despair. He swore violently under his breath. 
The fool would keep him awake all night now for cer- 
tain. He cursed his luck. He wanted to forget hi( 
maddening troubles in sleep sometimes. He could detect 
no movements. Without apparently making the slight- 
est attempt to get up, Jack went on sniggering to him- 
self where he lay; then began to speak, where he had 
left off as it were — 

** Massy ! I love the dirty rascal. He would like to 
see his poor old Jack starve — ^but just you look where 
he has climbed to." • . • He hiccoughed in a superiori 
leisurely manner. ..." Ship-owning it with the best. 
A lottery ticket you want. Ha! ha! I will give you 
lottery tickets, my boy. Let the old ship sink and the 
old chum starve — ^that's right. He don't go wrong- 
Massy don't. Not he. He's a genius — ^that man is. 
That's the way to win your money. Ship and chiun 
must go." 

" The silly fool has taken it to heart," muttered Massy 
to himself. And, listening with a softened expression 
of face for any slight sign of returning drowsiness, he 
was discouraged profoundly by a burst of laughter full 
of joyful irony. 

** Would like to see her at the bottom of the sea ! 0h, 
you clever, clever devil! Wish her sunk, eh? I should 
think you would, my boy; the damned old thing and 
all your troubles with her. Rake in the insurance money 

[ 350 1 


—turn your back on your old chum — all's well — ^gentle^ 
man again." 

A grim stillness had come over Massy's face. Only 
his big black eyes rolled uneasily. The raving fool. 
And yet it wets all true. Yes. Lottery tickets, too. 
All true. What? Beginning again? He wished he 
wouldn't. . . . 

But it was even so. The imaginative drunkard on 
the other side of the bulkhead shook off the deathlike 
stillness that after his last words had fallen on the dark 
ship moored to a silent shore. 

"Don't you dare to say anything against George 
Massy, Esquire. When he's tired of waiting he will do 
away with her. Look out ! Down she goes — chum and 
all. He'll know how to . . ." 

The voice hesitated, weary, dreamy, lost, as if dying 
away in a vast open space. 

". . . Find a trick that will work. He's up to it — 
never fear . . ." 

He must have been very drunk, for at last the heavy 
sleep gripped him with the suddenness of a magic spell, 
and the last word lengthened itself into an interminable, 
noisy, in-drawn snore. And then even the snoring 
stopped, and all was still. 

But it seemed as though Mr. Massy had suddenly come 
to doubt the efficacy of sleep as against a man's troubles ; 
or perhaps he had found the relief he needed in the 
stillness of a calm contemplation that may contain the 
vivid thoughts of wealth, of a stroke of luck, of long 
idleness, and may bring before you the imagined form 

1861 ] 


of every desire; for, turning about and throwing his 
arms over the edge of his bunk, he stood there with his 
feet on his favorite old coat, looking out through the 
round port into the night over the river. Sometimes 
a breath of wind would enter and touch his face, a cool 
breath charged with the damp, fresh feel from a vast 
body of water. A glimmer here and there was all he 
could see of it; and once he might after all suppose he 
had dozed off, since there appeared before his vision, 
unexpectedly and connected with no dream, a row of 
flaming and gigantic figures — ^three nought seven one 
two— making up a number such as you may see on a 
lottery ticket. And then all at once the port was no 
longer black: it was pearly gray, framing a shore 
crowded with houses, thatched roof beyond thatched 
roof, walls of mats and bamboo, gables of carved teak 
timber. Rows of dwellings raised on a forest of piles 
lined the steely band of the river, brimful and still, with 
the tide on the turn. This was Batu Bern — and the 
day had come. 

Mr. Massy shook himself, put on the tweed coat, and, 
shivering nervously as if from some great shock, made 
a note of the number. A fortunate, rare hint that. 
Yes; but to pursue fortune one wanted money — ready 

Then he went out and prepared to descend into the 
engine-room. Several small job? had to be seen to, and 
Jack was lying dead drunk on the floor of his cabin, 
with the door locked at that. His gorge rose at the 
thought of work. Ay ! But if you wanted to do noth* 

[ 862 ] 


ing you had to get first a good bit of money. A ship 
won't save you. True, all true. He was tired of 
waiting for some chance that would rid him at last of 
that ship that had turned but a curse on his life. 


The deep, interminable hoot of the steam-whistle had, 
in its grave, vibrating note, something intolerable, 
which sent a slight shudder down Mr. Van Wyk's back. 
It was the early afternoon ; the SofaLa was leaving Batu 
Bern for Fangu, the next place of call. She swung in 
the stream, scantily attended by a few canoes, and, glid- 
ing on the broad river, became lost to view from the 
Van Wyk bungalow. 

Its owner had not gone this time to see her off. Gren- 
erally he came down to the wharf, exchanged a few 
words with the bridge while she cast off, and waved his 
hand to Captain VHialley at the last moment. This day 
he did not even go as far as the balustrade of the 
veranda. " He couldn't see me if I did," he said to 
himself. " I wonder whether he can make out the house 
at all." And this thought somehow made him feel more 
alone than he had ever felt for all these years. What 
was it? six or seven? Seven. A long time. 

He sat on the veranda with a closed book on his knee, 
and, as it were, looked out upon his solitude, as if the 
fact of Captain Whalley's blindness had opened his 
eyes to his own. There were many sorts of heartaches 

C863 1 


and troubles, and there was no place where they could 
not find a man out. And he felt ashamed, as though 
he had for six years behaved like a peevish boy. 

His thought followed the Sofcda on her way. On the 
spur of the moment he had acted impulsively, turning 
to the thing most pressing. And what else could he 
have done? Later on he should see. It seemed neces- 
sary that he should come out into the world, for a time 
at least. He had money — something cotdd be ar- 
ranged; he would grudge no time, no trouble, no loss 
•f his solitude. It weighed on him now — ^and Captain 
Whalley appeared to him as he had sat shading his 
eyes, as if, being deceived in the trust of his faith, he 
were beyond all the good and evil that can be wrought 
by the hands of men. 

Mr. Van Wyk's thoughts followed the SofcHa down tha 
river, winding about through the belt of the coast forest, 
between the buttressed shafts of the big trees, through 
the mangrove strip, and over the bar. The ship crossed 
it easily in broad daylight, piloted, as it happened, by 
Mr. Sterne, who took the watch from four to six, and 
then went below to hug himself with delight at the pros- 
pect of being virtually employed by a rich man— like 
Mr. Van Wyk. He could not see how any hitch couU 
occur now. He did not seem able to get over the feeling 
of being " fixed up at last." From six to eight, in the 
course of duty, the Serang looked alone after the ship. 
She had a clear road before her now till about three in 
the morning, when she would close with the Pangu 
group. At eight Mr. Sterne came out cheerily to take 

[ 864] 


charge again till midnight. At ten he was still chir 
ruping and humming to himself on the bridge, and 
about that time Mr. Van Wyk'b thought aban- 
doned the Sofala. Mr. Van Wyk had fallen asleep 
at last. 

Massy, blocking iiie engine-room companion, jerked 
himself into his tweed jacket surlily, while the second 
waited with a scowl. 

"Oh. You came out? You sot! Well, what have 
you got to say for yourself? " 

He had been in charge of the engines till then. A 
somber fury darkened his mind: a hot anger against 
the ship, against the facts of life, against the men for 
their cheating, against himself too — ^because of an in- 
ward tremor in his heart. 

An incomprehensible growl answered him. 

" What? Can't you open your mouth now? You yelp 
out your infernal rot loud enough when you are drunk. 
What do you mean by abusing people in that way? — 
you old useless boozer, you 1 " 

" Can't help it. Don't remember anything about it. 
You shouldn't listen." 

" You dare to tell me ! What do you mean by going 
on a drunk like this ! " 

" Don't ask me. Sick of the dam' boilers — ^you would 
be. SickofUfe." 

" I wish you were dead, then. You've made me sick 
of you. Don't you remember the uproar you made last 
night? You miserable old soaker!" 

" No ; I don't. Don't want to. Drink is drink." 

[ 865 ] 


" I wonder what prevents me from kicking you out. 
What do you want here? " 

** Relieve you. You've been long enough down there, 

" Don't you George me — ^you tippling old rascal, you ! 
If I were to die to-morrow you would starve. Remem- 
ber that. Say Mr. Massy." 

" Mr. Massy," repeated the other stolidly. 

Disheveled, with dull blood-shot eyes, a snuffy, grimy 
shirt, greasy browsers, naked feet thrust into ragged 
slippers, he bolted in head down directly Massy had 
made way for him. 

The chief engineer looked around. The deck was 
empty as far as the taffrail. All the native passengers 
had left in Batu Bern this time, and no others had 
joined. The dial of the patent log tinkled periodically 
in the dark at the end of the ship. It was a dead calm, 
and, under the clouded sky, through the still air that 
seemed to cling warm, with a seaweed smell, to her slim 
hull, on a sea of somber gray and unwrinkled, the ship 
moved on an even keel, as if floating detached in empty 
space. But Mr. Massy slapped his forehead, tottered 
a little, caught hold of a belaying-pin at the foot of 
the mast. 

" I shall go mad," he muttered, walking across the deck 
unsteadily. A shovel was scraping loose coal down be- 
low — a fire-door clanged. Sterne on the bridge began 
whistling a new tune. 

Captain Whalley, sitting on the couch, awake and fully 
dressed, heard the door of his cabin open. He did not 

[ 866 ] 


move in the least, waiting to recognize the voice, with 
an appalling strain of prudence. 

A bulkhead lamp blazed on the white paint, the crim- 
son plush, the brown varnish of mahogany tops. The 
white wood packing-case under the bed-place had re- 
mained unopened for three years now, as though Cap- 
tain Whalley had felt that, after the Fair Maid was 
gone, there could be no abiding-place on earth for his 
affections. His hands rested on his knees; his hand- 
some head with big eyebrows presented a rigid profile 
to the doorway. The expected voice spoke out at 

" Once more, then. What am I to call you? " 

Ha! Massy. Again. The weariness of it crushed his 
heart — ^and the pain of shame was almost more than he 
could bear without crying out. 

" Well. Is it to be * partner ' still? '* 

" You don't know what you ask." 

** I know what I want . . ." 

Massy stepped in and closed the door. 

". . . And I am going to have a try for it with you 
once more." 

His whine was half persuasive, half menacing. 

" For it's no manner of use to tell me that you are 
poor. You don't spend anything on yourself, that's 
true enough; but there's another name for thett. You 
think you are going to have what you want out of me 
for three years, and then cast me off without hearing 
what I think of you. You think I would have submitted 
to your airs if I had known you had only a beggarly 



five hundred pounds in the world. You ought to have 
told me." 

" Perhaps," said Captain Whalley, bowing his head. 
** And yet it has saved you." . . . Massy laughed 
scornfully. ..." I have told you often enough 

" And I don't believe you now. When I think how 
I let you lord it over my ship ! Do you remember how 
you used to bullyrag me about my coat and your bridge? 
It was in his way. His bridge! *And I won't be a 
party to this — ^and I couldn't think of doing that.' 
Honest man ! And now it all comes out. * I am poor, 
and I can't. I have only this five hundred in the 
world.' " 

He contemplated the immobility of Captain Whalley, 
that seemed to present an inconquerable obstacle in 
his path. His face took a mournful cast. 

" You are a hard man." 

** Enough," said Captain Whalley, turning upon him. 
** You shall get nothing from me, because I have noth- 
ing of mine to give away now." 

" Tell that to the marines ! " 

Mr. Massy, going out, looked back once ; then the door 
closed, and Captain Whalley, alone, sat as still as before. 
He had nothing of his own — even his own past of honor, 
of truth, of just pride, was gone. All his spotless life 
had fallen into the abyss. He had said his last good-by 
to it. But what belonged to JieVy that he meant to save. 
Only a little money. He would take it to her in his own 
hands — ^this last gift of a man that had lasted too long. 

[ S58 ] 


And an immense and fierce impulse, the very passion of 
paternity, flamed up with all the unquenched vigor of 
his worthless life in a desire to see her face. 

Just across the deck Massy had gone straight to his 
cabin, struck a light, and hunted up the note of the 
dreamed number whose figures had flamed up also with 
the fierceness of another passion. He must contrive 
somehow not to miss a drawing. That number meant 
something. But what expedient could he contrive to 
keep himself going? 

** Wretched miser ! " he mumbled. 

If Mr. Sterne could at no time have told him anything 
new about his partner, he could have told Mr. Sterne 
that another use could be made of a man's affliction than 
just to kick him out, and thus defer the term of a diffi- 
cult payment for a year. To keep the secret of the 
affliction and induce him to stay was a better move. If 
without means, he would be anxious to remain ; and that 
settled the question of refunding him his share. He did 
not know exactly how much Captain Whalley was dis- 
abled ; but if it so happened that he put the ship ashore 
somewhere for good and all, it was not the owner's fault 
— ^was it? He was not obliged to know that there was 
anything wrong. But probably nobody would raise 
such a point, and the ship was fully insured. He had 
had enough self-restraint to pay up the premiums. But 
this was not all. He could not believe Captain Whalley 
t« be so confoundedly destitute as not to have some more 
money put away somewhere. If he. Massy, could get 
hold of it, that would pay for the boilers, and every- 

[ 869 ] 


thing went on as' before. And if she got lost in the 
end, so much the better. He hated her: he loathed the 
troubles that took his mind off the chances of fortune. 
He wished her at the bottom of the sea, and the in* 
surance money in his pocket. And as, baffled, he left 
Captain Whalley's cabin, he enveloped in the same 
hatred the ship with the worn-out boilers and the man 
with the dimmed eyes. 

And our conduct after all is so much a matter of outside 
suggestion, that had it not been for his Jack's drunken 
gabble he would have there and then had it out with this 
miserable man, who would neither help, nor stay, nor 
yet lose the ship. The old fraud! He longed to kick 
him out. But he restrained himself. Time enough for 
that — ^when he liked. There was a fearful new thought 
put into his head. Wasn't he up to it after all? How 
that beast Jack had raved ! " Find a safe trick to get 
rid of her." Well, Jack was not so far wrong. A very 
clever trick had occurred to him. Aye! But what of 
the risk? 

A feeling of pride — ^the pride of superiority to com- 
mon prejudices — crept into his breast, made his heart 
beat fast, his mouth turn dry. Not everybody would 
dare ; but he was Massy, and he was up to it ! 

Six bells were struck on deck. Eleven! He drank a 
glass of water, and sat down for ten minutes or so to 
calm himself. Then he got out of his chest a small 
bull's-=eye lantern of his own and lit it. 

Almost opposite his berth, across the narrow passagt 
imder the bridge, there was, in the iron deck-structure 

[ 860 ] 


covering the stokehold fiddle and the boiler-space, a 
storeroom with iron sides, iron roof, iron-plated floor, 
too, on account of the heat below. All sorts of rubbish 
was shot there : it had a mound of scrap-iron in a comer ; 
rows of empty oil-cans; sacks of cotton-waste, with a 
heap of charcoal, a deck-forge, fragments of an old hen- 
coop, winch-covers all in rags, remnants of lamps, and 
a brown felt hat, discarded by a man dead now (of a 
fever on the Brazil coast), who had been once mate of 
the Sofala^ had remained for years jammed forcibly be- 
hind a length of burst copper pipe, flung at some time 
or other out of the engine-room. A complete and im- 
pervious blackness pervaded that Caphamaum of for- 
gotten things. A small shaft of light from Mr. Massy's 
buU's-eye fell slanting right through it. 
His coat was unbuttoned ; he shot the bolt of the door 
(there was no other opening), and, squatting before the 
scrap-heap, began to pack his pockets with pieces of 
iron. He packed them carefully, as if the rusty nuts, 
the broken bolts, the links of cargo chain, had been so 
much gold he had that one chance to carry away. He 
packed his side-pockets till they bulged, the breeist 
pocket, the pockets inside. He turned over the pieces. 
Some he rejected. A small mist of powdered rust began 
to rise about his busy hands. Mr. Massy knew some- 
thing of the scientific basis of his clever trick. If you 
want to deflect the magnetic needle of a ship's compass, 
soft iron is the best; likewise many small pieces in the 
pockets of a jacket would have more eff^ect than a few 
large ones, because in that way you obtain a greater 



amount of surface for weight in your iron, and it*s sur- 
face that tells. 

He slipped out swiftly — ^two strides sufficed — ^and in 
his cabin he perceived that his hands were all red — ^red 
with rust. It disconcerted him, as though he had found 
them covered with blood : he looked himself over hastily. 
Why, his trowsers too ! He had been rubbing his rusty 
palms on his legs. 

He tore off the waistband button in his haste, brushed 
his coat, washed his hands. Then the air of guilt left 
him, and he sai down to wait. 

He sat bolt upright and weighted with iron in his 
chair. He had a hard, lumpy bulk against each hip, 
felt the scrappy iron in his pockets touch his ribs at 
every breath, the downward drag of all these pounds 
hanging upon his shoulders. He looked very dull too, 
sitting idle there, and his yellow face, with motionless 
black eyes, had something passive and sad in its quiet- 

When he heard eight bells struck above his head, he 
rose and made ready to go out. His movements seemed 
aimless, his lower lip had dropped a little, his eyes 
roamed about the cabin, and the tremendous tension of 
his will had robbed them of every vestige of ii\telligence. 

With the last stroke of the bell the Serang appeared 
noiselessly on the bridge to relieve the mate. Sterne 
overflowed with good nature, since he had nothing more 
to desire. 

" Got your eyes well open yet, Serang? It's middling 
dark ; I'll wait till you get your sight properly.'* 

I 86« ] 


The old Malay murmured, looked up with his worn 
eyes, sidled away into the light of the binnacle, and, 
clasping his hands behind his back, fixed his eyes on the 

" You'll have to keep a good look-out ahead for 
land, about half -past three. It's fairly clear, though. 
You have looked in on the captain as you came 
along — eh? He knows the time? Well, then, I am 

At the foot of the ladder he stood aside for the captain. 
He watched him go up with an even, certain tread, and 
remained thoughtful for a moment. " It's funny," he 
said to himself, " but you can never tell whether that 
man has seen you or not. He might have heard me 
breathe this time." 

He was a wonderful man when all was said and done. 
They said he had had a name in his day. Mr. Sterne 
could well believe it; and he concluded serenely that 
Captain Whalley must be able to see people more or less 
— as himself just now, for instance — ^but not being cer- 
tain of anybody, had to keep up that unnoticing silence 
of manner for fear of giving himself away. Mr. Sterne 
was a shrewd guesser. 

This necessity of every moment brought home to Cap- 
tain Whalley's heart the humiliation of his falsehood. 
He had drifted into it from paternal love, from in- 
credulity, from boundless trust in divine justice meted 
out to men's feelings on this earth. He would give his 
poor Ivy the benefit of another month's work; perhaps 
the affliction was only temporary. Surely God would 



not rob his child of his power to help, and cast him 
naked into a night without end. He had caught at 
every hope; and when the evidence of his misfortune 
was stronger than hope, he tried not to believe the mani- 
fest thing. 

In vain. In the steadily darkening universe a sinister 
clearness fell upon his ideas. In the illuminating mo- 
ments of suffering he saw life, men, all things, the whole 
earth with all her burden of created nature, as he had 
never seen them before. 

Sometimes he was seized with a sudden vertigo and an 
overwhelming terror ; and then the image of his daughter 
appeared. Her, too, he had never seen so clearly before. 
Was it possible that he should ever be unable to do 
anything whatever for her? Nothing. And not see 
her any more? Never. 

Why? The punishment was too great for a little pre- 
sumption, for a little pride. And at last he came to 
cling to his deception with a fierce detemination to carry 
it out to the end, to save her money intact, and behold 
her once more with hia own eyes. Afterward^what? 
The idea of suicide was revolting to the vigor of his 
manhood. He had prayed for death till the prayers had 
stuck in his throat. All the days of his life he had 
prayed for daily bread, and not to be led into tempta- 
tion, in a childlike humility of spirit. Did words mean 
anything? Whence did the gift of speech come? The 
violent beating of his heart reverberated in his head — ■ 
seemed to shake his brain to pieces. 

He sat down heavily in the deck-chair to keep the pre* 

[ 864 ] 


tense of bis watch. The night was dark. All the nights 
were dark now. 

" Serang," he said, half aloud. 

" Ada, Tuan. I am here." 

" There are clouds on the sky? " 

" There are, Tuan." 

"Let her be steered straight. North." 

" She is going north, Tuan." 

The Serang stepped back. Captain Whalley recog- 
nized Massy's footfalls on the bridge. 

The engineer walked over to port and returned, pass- 
ing behind the chair several times. Captain Whalley 
detected an unusual character as of prudent care in this 
prowling. The near presence of that man brought with 
it always a recrudescence of moral suffering for Captain 
Whalley. It was not remorse. After all, he had done 
nothing but good to the poor devil. There was also 
a sense of danger — ^the necessity of a greater care. 

Massy stopped and said — 

" So you still say you must go? " 

" I must indeed." 

" And you couldn't at least leave the money for a term 
of years?" 

" Impossible." 

" Can't trust it with me without your care, eh? " 

Captain Whalley remained silent. Massy sighed 
ieeply over the back of the chair. 

" It would just do to save me," he said in a tremulous 

" I've saved you once." 

[ 865 ] 


The chief engineer took off his coat with careful 
movements, and proceeded to feel for the brass hook 
screwed into the wooden stcuichion. For this purpose he 
placed himself right in front of the binnacle, thus hid- 
ing completely the compass-card from the quarter- 
master at the wheel. " Tuan ! " the lascar at last mur- 
mured softly, meaning to let the white man know that 
he could not see to steer. 

Mr. Massy had accomplished his purpose. The coat 
was hanging from the nail, within six inches of the 
binnacle. And directly he had stepped aside the quarter- 
master, a middle-aged, pock-marked, Sumatra Malay, 
almost as dark as a negro, perceived with amazement 
that in that short time, in this smooth water, with no 
wind at all, the ship had gone swinging far out of her 
course. He had never known her get away like this 
before. With a slight grunt of astonishment he turned 
the wheel hastily to bring her head back north, which 
was the course. The grinding of the steering-chains, 
the chiding murmurs of the Serang, who had come over 
to the wheel, made a slight stir, which attracted Cap- 
tain Whalley's anxious attention. He said, " Take 
better care." Then everything settled to the usual quiet 
on the bridge. Mr. Massy had disappeared. 

But the iron in the pockets of the coat had done its 
work; and the Sofala^ heading north by the compsj^s, 
made untrue by this simple device, was no longer mak- 
ing a safe course for Pangu Bay. 

The hiss of water parted by her stem, the throb of her 
engines, all the sounds of her faithful and laborious life, 



went on uninterrupted in the great calm of the sea join- 
ing on all sides the motionless layer of cloud over the 
sky. A gentle stillness as vast as the world seemed to 
wait upon her path, enveloping her lovingly in a su- 
preme caress. Mr. Massy thought there could be no 
better night for an arranged shipwreck. 

Run up high and dry on one of the reefs east of 
Fangu — ^wait for daylight — ^hole in the bottom — out 
boats — Pangu Bay same evening. That*s about it. As 
soon as she touched he would hasten on the bridge, get 
hold of the coat (nobody would notice in the dark), 
and shake it upside-down over the side, or even fling 
it into the sea. A detail. Who could guess? Coat been 
seen hanging there from that hook hundreds of times. 
Nevertheless, when he sat down on the lower step of the 
bridge-ladder his knees knocked together a little. The 
waiting part was the worst of it. At times he would 
begin to pant quickly, as though he had been running, 
and then breathe largely, swelling with the intimate 
sense of a mastered fate. Now and then he would hear 
the shuffle of the Serang's bare feet up there : quiet, low 
voices would exchange a few words, and lapse almost 
at once into silence. . . • 

** Tell me directly you see any land, Serang.'* 

" Yes, Tuan. Not yet." 

" No, not yet," Captain Whalley would agree. 

The ship had been the best friend of his decline. He 
had sent all the money he had made by and in the 
Sofdla to his daughter. His thought lingered on the 
name. How often he and his wife had talked over the 

[ 867 ] 


cot of the child in the big stem-cabin of the Condor; she 
would grow up, she would tnarry, she would love them, 
they would live near her and look at her happiness — ^it 
would go on without end. Well, his wife was dead, to 
the child he had given all he had to give ; he wished he 
could come near her, see her, see her face once, live in 
the sound of her voice, that could make the darkness of 
the living grave ready for him supportable. He had 
been starved of love too long. He imagined her tender- 

The Serang had been peering forward, and now and 
then glancing at the chair. He fidgeted restlessly, and 
suddenly burst out close to Captain Whalley — 

" Tuan, do you see anything of the land? " 

The alarmed voice brought Captain Whalley to his feet 
at once. He ! See ! And at the question, the curse of 
his blindness seemed to fall on him with a hundredfold 

" What's the time? " he cried. 

" Half -past three, Tuan.'' 

** We are close. You mtist see. Look, I say. Look." 

Mr. Massy, awakened by the sudden sound of talking 
from a short doze on the lowest step, wondered why he 
was there. Ah ! A f aintness came over him. It is one 
thing to sow the seed of an accident and another to see 
the monstrous fruit hanging over your head ready to 
fall in the sound of agitated voices. ^There's no 
danger/* he muttered thickly to himself. 

The horror of incertitude had seized upon Captain 
Whalley, the miserable mistrust of men, of things — of 

[ 868 ] 


the very earth. He had steered that very oourse thirty- 
six times by the same compass — ^if anything was certain 
in this world it was its absolute, unerring correctness. 
Then what had happened? Did the Serang lie? Why 
lie? Why? Was he going blind too? 

" Is there a mist? Look low on the water. Low down, 
I say." 
" Tuan, there's no mist. See for yourself." 
Captain Whalley steadied the trembling of his limbs 
by an effort. Should he stop the engines at once and 
give himself away. A gust of irresolution swayed all 
sorts of bizarre notions in his mind. The unusual had 
come, and he was not fit to deal with it. In this passage 
of inexpressible anguish he saw her face — ^the face of 
a young girl — ^with an amazing strength of illusion. 
No, he must not give himself away after having gone 
so far for her sake. "You steered the course? You 
made it? Speak the truth." 
" Ya, Tuan. On the bourse now. Look." 
Captain Whalley strode to the binnacle, which to him 
made such a dim spot of light in an infinity of shape- 
less shadow. By bending his face right down to the 
glass he had been able before • . • 

Having to stoop so low, he put out, instinctively, his 
arm to where he knew there was a stanchion to steady 
himself against. His hand closed on something that 
was not wood but cloth. The slight pull adding to the 
weight, the loop broke, and Mr. Massy's coat falling, 
struck the deck heavily with a dull thump, accompanied 
by a lot of clicks. 


THE EinD of the TETHER 

"What's this?" 

Captain Whalley fell on his knees, with groping hands 
extended in a frank gesture of blindness. They trem- 
bled, these hands feeling for the truth. He saw it. Iron 
near the compass. Wrong course. Wreck her! His 
ship. Oh no. Not that. 

** Jimip and stop her ! " he roared out in a voice not 
his own. 

He ran himself — hands forward, a blind man, and 
while the clanging of the gong echoed still all over the 
ship, she seemed to butt full tilt into the side of a 

It was low water along the north side of the strait, 
Mr. Massy had not reckoned on that. Instead of run« 
ning aground for half her length, the Sofala butted the 
sheer ridge of a stone reef which would have been 
awash at high water. This made the shock absolutely 
terrific. Everybody in the ship that was standing was 
thrown down headlong : the shaken rigging made a great 
rattling to the very trucks. All the lights went out; 
several chain-guys, snapping, clattered against the 
funnel; there were crashes, pings of parted wire-rope, 
splintering sounds, loud cracks; the masthead lamp flev 
over the bows, and all the doors about the deck began 
to bang heavily. Then, after having hit, she rebounded, 
hit the second time the very same spot like a battering- 
ram. This completed the havoc: the funnel, with all 
the guys gone, fell over with a hollow sound of thunder, 
smashing the wheel to bits, crushing the frame of the 
awnings, breaking the lockers, filling the bridge with 

[ 370 ] 


a mass of broken wood. Captain Whalley picked 
himself up and stood knee-deep in wreckage, tom» 
bleeding, knowing the nature of the danger he had es- 
caped mostly by the sound, and holding Mr. Massy's 
coat in his ££rms. 

By this time Steme (he had been jSung out of his 
bunk) had set the engines astern. They worked for a 
few turns, then a voice bawled out, " Gret out of the 
damned engine-room, Jack ! " — and they stopped ; but 
the ship had gone clear of the reef and lay still, with a 
heavy cloud of steam issuing from the broken deck- 
pipes, and vanishing in wispy shapes into the night. 
Notwithstanding the suddenness of the disaster there 
was no shouting, as if the very violence of the shock 
had half -stunned the shadowy lot of people swaying 
here and there about her decks. The voice of the Serang 
pronounced distinctly above the confused murmurs — 

"No bottom" He had heaved the lead. 

Mr. Sterne cried out next in a strained pitch — 

" Where the devil has she got to? Where are we? *' 

Captain Whalley replied in a calm bass — 

" Amongst the reefs to the eastward." 

"You know it, sir? Then she will never get out 

I "She will be gone in five minutes. Boats, Steme. 
Even one will save you all in this calm." 

The Chinaman stokers went in a disorderly rush for 
the port boats. Nobody tried to check them. The 
Malays, after a moment of confusion, became quiet, 
and Mr. Steme showed a good countenance. Captain 

[871 ] 


Whalley had not moved. His thoughts were darker 
than this night in which he had lost his first ship. 

" He made me lose a ship." 

Another tall figure standing before him amongst the 
litter of the smash on the bridge whispered insanely — 

** Say nothing of it." 

Massy stumbled closer. Captain Whalley heard the 
chattering of his teeth. 

" I have the coat." 

" Throw it down and come along," urged the chatter- 
ing voice. ** B-b-b-b-boat ! " 

"You will get five years for this." 

Mr. Massy had lost his voice. Hii? speech was a mere 
dry rustling in his throat. 

** Have mercy ! " 

" Had you any when you made me lose my ship? Mr. 
Massy, you shall get five years for this!" 

" I wanted money ! Money ! My own money ! I will 
give you some money. Take half of it. You love 
money yourself." 

" There's a justice . . ." 

Massy made an awful effort, and in a strange, half- 
choked utterance — 

" You blind devil ! It's you that drove me to it." 

Captain Whalley, hugging the coat to his breast, 
made no sound. The light had ebbed for ever from the 
world- — let everything go. But this man should not 
escape scot-free. 

Sterne's voice commanded-'— 

** Lower away ! " 

c 37« ]: 


The blocks rattled. 

** Now then,'* he cried, " over with you. This way. 
Vou, Jack, here. Mr. Massy ! Mr. Massy ! Captain ! 
Quick, sir! Let's get " 

" I shall go to prison for trying to cheat the insurance, 
but you'll get exposed; you, honest man, who has been 
cheating me. You are poor. Aren't you? You've 
nothing but the five hundred pounds. Well, you have 
nothing at all now. The ship's lost, and the insurance 
won't be paid." 

Captain Whalley did not move. True ! Ivy's money ! 
Gone in this wreck. Again he had a flash of insight. 
He was indeed at the end of his tether. 

Urgent voices cried out together alongside. Massy 
did not seem able to tear himself away from the bridge. 
He chattered and hissed despairingly — 

" Give it up to me ! Give it up ! " 

" No," said Captain Whalley ; " I could not give it up. 
You had better go. Don't wait, man, if you want to 
live. She's settling down by the head fast. No ; I shall 
keep it, but I shall stay on board." 

Massy did not seem to understand ; but the love of life, 
awakened suddenly, drove him away from the bridge. 

Captain Whalley laid the coat down, and stumbled 
amongst the heaps of wreckage to the side. 

"Is Mr. Massy with you?" he called out into the 

Sterne from the boat shouted — 

*' Yes ; we've got him. Come along, sir. It's madness 
to stay longer." 

f 373 J 


Captain Whalley felt along the rail carefully, and, 
without a word, cast off the painter. They were ex- 
pecting him still down there. They were waiting, till 
a voice suddenly exclaimed — 

•* We are adrift ! Shove off ! " 

" Captain Whalley ! Leap ! . . • pull up a little . . • 
leap ! You can swim." 

In that old heart, in that vigorous body, there was, 
that nothing should be wanting, a horror of death that 
apparently could not be overcome by the horror of 
blindness. But after all, for Ivy he had carried his 
point, walking in his darkness to the very verge of a 
crime. God had not listened to his prayers. The light 
had finished ebbing out of the world ; not a glimmer. It 
was a dark waste; but it was unseemly that a Whalley 
who had gone so far to carry a point should continue 
to live. He must pay the price. 

** Leap as far as you can, sir ; we will pick you up." 

They did not hear him answer. But their shouting 
seemed to remind him of something. He groped his 
way back, and sought for Mr. Massy's coat. He could 
swim indeed; people sucked down by the whirlpool of 
a sinking ship do come up sometimes to the surface, and 
It was unseemly that a Whalley, who had made up his 
mind to die, should be beguiled by chance into a 
struggle. He would put all the^e pieces of iron into his 
own pockets. 

They, looking from the boat, saw the Sofala, a black 
mass upon a black sea, lying still at an appalling cant. 
No sound came from her. Then, with a great bizarre 

I 8T4 ] 


•huffing noise, as if the boilers had broken through th« 
bulkheads, and with a faint muffled detonation, where 
the ship had been there appeared for a moment some- 
thing standing upright and narrow, like a rock out of 
the sea. Then that too disappeared. 

When the Sofala failed to come back to Batu Bern at 
the proper time, Mr. Van Wyk understood at once that 
he would never see her any more. But he did not know 
what had happened till some weeks afterwards, when* 
in a native craft lent him by his Sultan, he had madt 
his way to the SofaWs port of registry, where already 
her existence and the official inquiry into her loss wa» 
beginning to be forgotten. 

It had not been a very remarkable or interesting case, 
except for the fact that the captain had gone down with 
his sinking ship. It was the only life lost ; and Mr. Van 
Wyk would not have been able to learn any details had 
it not been for Sterne, whom he met one day on the quay 
near the bridge over the creek, almost on the very spot 
where Captain WhaUey, to preserve his daughter's five 
hundred pounds intact, had turned to get a sampan 
which would take him on board the Sofala. 
Prom afar Mr. Van Wyk saw Sterne blink straight at 
him and raise his hand to his hat. They drew into the 
shade of a building (it was a bank), and the mate re- 
lated how the boats with the crew got into Pangu Bay 
about six hours after the accident, and how they had 
Jived for a fortnight in a state of destitution before they 
found an opportunity to get away from that beastly 

[ 876 ] 


place. The inquiry had exonerated everybody from all 
blame. The loss of the ship was put down to an un- 
usual set of the current. Indeed, it could not have been 
anything else: there was no other way to account for 
the ship being set seven miles to the eastw€u:d of her 
position during the middle watch. 

** A piece of bad luck for me, sir." 

Sterne passed his tongue on his lips, and glanced aside. 
^ I lost the advantage of being employed by you, sir. 
I can never be sorry enough. But here it is : one man's 
poison, another man's meat. This could not have been 
handier for Mr. Massy if he had arranged that ship- 
wreck himself. The most timely total loss I've ever 
heard of." 

" What became of that Massy? " asked Mr. Van Wyk. 

^^He, sir? Ha! ha! He would keep on telling me 
that he meant to buy another ship; but as soon as he 
had the money in his pocket he cleared out for Manilla 
by mail-boat early in the morning. I gave him chase 
right aboard, and he told me then he was going to make 
his fortune dead sure in Manilla. I could go to the 
devil for all he cared. And yet he as good as promised 
to give me the command if I didn't talk too much." 

" You never said anything . . •" Mr. Van Wyk 

" Not I, sir. Why should I? I mean to get on, but 
the dead aren't in my way," said Sterne. His eyelids 
were beating rapidly, then drooped for an instant. 
^ Besides, sir, it would have been an awkward busineso. 
You made me hold my tongue just a bit too long.^ 

[ 876 1 



••Do you know how it was that Captain Whalley re- 
mained on board? Did he really refuse to leave? Com« 
now ! Or was it perhaps an accidental • . • ? " 

" Nothing ! " Sterne interrupted with energy. *• I tell 
you I yelled for him to leap overboard. He simply 
mtist have cast off the painter of the boat himself. We 
all yelled to him — ^that is, Jack and I. He wouldn't even 
answer us. The ship was as silent as a grave to the last. 
Then the boilers fetched away, and down she went. 
Accident ! Not it ! The game was up, sir, I tell you." 

This was all that Sterne had to say. 

Mr. Van Wyk had been of course made the guest of 
the club for a fortnight, and it was there that he met 
the lawyer in whose office had been signed the agreement 
between Massy and Captain Whalley, 

" Extraordinary old man," he said. " He came into 
my olBce from nowhere in particular as you may say, 
with his five hundred pounds to invest, and that engineer 
fellow following him anxiously. And now he is gone out 
a little inexplicably, just as he came. I could never 
understand him quite. There was no mystery at all 
about that Massy, eh? I wonder whether Whalley re- 
fused to leave the ship. It would have been foolish. 
He was blameless^ as the court found." 

Mr. Van Wyk had known him well, he said, and he 
could not believe in suicide. Such an act would not 
have been in character with what he knew of the man. 

** It is my opinion, too," the lawyer agreed. The gen- 
eral theory was that the captain had remained too long 
m board trying to cave something of importance. Per- 

[ 877 3 


haps the chart which would clear him^ or else something 
of value in his cabin. The painter of the boat had 
come adrift of itself it was supposed. However, strange 
to say, some little time before that voyage poor Whalley 
had called in his office and had left with him a sealed 
envelope address^ to his daughter, to be forwarded to 
her in case of his. death. Still it was nothing very un- 
usual, especially in a man of his age^ Mr. Van Wyk 
shook his head. Captain Whalley looked good for a 
hundred yeaiB. . 

" Perfectly true," assented the lawyer. " The old 
fellow looked as though he had come into the world full- 
grown and with that long beard. I could never, some- 
how, imagine him either younger or older — don't you 
know. There was a sense of physical power about that 
man too. And perhaps that was the secret of that some- 
thing peculiar in his person which struck everybody who 
came in contact with him. He looked indestructible by 
any ordinary means that put an end to the rest of us. 
His deliberate, stately courtesy of manner was full of 
significance. It was as though he were certain of hav- 
ing plenty of time for everything. Yes, there was 
something indestructible about him; and the way he 
talked sometimes you might have thought he believed 
it himself. When he called on me last with that letter 
he wanted me to take charge of, he was not depressed aiE 
all. Perhaps a shade more deliberate in his talk and 
manner. Not depressed in the least. Had he a pre- 
sentiment, I wonder? Perhaps ! Still it seems a miierir 
ble end for such a striking figure.^ 

[ 878 ] 



" Oh yes ! It was a miserable end," Mr. Van Wyk said, 
with so much fervor that the lawyer looked up at him 
curiously; and afterwards, after parting with him, he 
remarked to an acquaintance — 

^* Queer person that Dutch tobacco-planter from Batu 
Bern. Know anything of him? '* 

*^ Heaps of money," answered the bank manager. ^ I 
hear he's going home by the next mail to form a com- 
pany to take over his estates. Another tobacco district 
thrown open. He's wise, I think. These good times 
won't last for ever." 

In the southern hemisphere Captain Whalley's daugh- 
ter had no presentiment of evil when she opened the 
envelope addressed to her in the lawyer's handwriting. 
She had received it in the afternoon; all the boarders 
had gone out, her boys were at school, her husband sat 
upstairs in his big arm-chair with a book, thin-faced, 
wrapped up in rugs to the waist. The house was still, 
and the grayness of a cloudy day lay against the panes 
of the windows. 

In a shabby dining-room, where a faint cold smell of 
dishes lingered all the year round, sitting at th6 end of 
a long table surrounded by many chairs pushed in with 
their backs close against the edge of the perpetually laid 
table-cloth, she read the opening sentences : " Most pro- 
found regret — ^painful duty — ^your father is no more — 
m accordance with his instructions — fatal casualty — 
consolation — ^no blame attached to his memory. . . ." 

Her face was thin, her temples a little sunk under the 
smooth bands of black hair, her lips remained resolutely 



compressed, while her dark eyes grew larger, till at last, 
with a low cry, she stood up, and instantly stooped to 
pick up another envelope which had slipped off her 
knees on to the floor. 

She tore it open, snatched out the inclosure. • • • 

^^ My dearest child," it said, ^^ I am writing this wfail» 
I am able yet to write legibly. I an; trying hard to . 
save for you aU the money that ia left ; I have only kept \^ 
it to serve you better. It is yours. It shall not be k>st: « 
it shall not be touched. There's five hundred poundb* 
Of what I have earned I have kept nothing back till 
now. For the future, if I live, I must keep back some— 
a little — to bring me to you. I must come to you. I 
must see you once more. 

^^ It is hard to believe that you will ever look on thesf^ 
lines. Grod seems to have forgotten me. I want to see 
you — and yet death would be a greater favor. If you 
ever read these words, I charge you to begin by thank- 
ing a Grod merciful at last, for I shall be dead then, and 
it will be well. My dear, I am at the end of my tetiier.*' 

The next paragraph began with the wwds : ^ My sight 
is going . . ." 

She read no mor^ that day. The hand holding up the 
paper to her eyes fell slowly, and her slender figure in 
a plain black dress walked rigidly to the window. Her 
eyes were dry: no cry of sorrow or whisper of thanks 
went up to heaven from her lips. Life had been too 
hard, for all the efforts of his love. It had silenced her 
emotions. But for the first time in all liiese years its 
sting had departed, the carking care of poverty, the 

[ S80 ] 


meanness of a hard struggle for bread. Even the image 
of her husband and of her children seemed to gHde awaj; 
from her into the gray twilight; it was her father's 
face alone that she sawj as though he had come to see 
her, always quiet and big, as she had seen him last, but 
with something more august and tender in his aspect. 

She slipped his folded letter between the two buttons 
of her plain black bodice, and leaning her forehead 
against a window-pane remained there till dusk, per- 
fectly motionless, giving him all the time she could 
spare. Gone! Was it possible? My Grod, was it possi- 
ble ? The blow had come softened by the spaces of the 
earth, by the years of absence. There had been whole 
days when she had not thought of him at all — had no 
time. But she had lored him, she felt fibe had loved 
hinif after alL 

THB sin)i« 


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